A Smart Community Keeping Residents of Planned Bridgeport Housing Area Connected is the First Step

Charleston Daily Mail

George Hohmann, Business Editor

August 29, 2005

BRIDGEPORT -- Charles Pointe, the big planned development now under construction in these rolling hills, is designed to make it easy to stay in touch. 

Rather than build houses, offices and businesses and then wiring them, Charles Pointe is being built with communications as an integrated part of the plan. 

"Our mission is to develop a master planned community based on how people will live, work and play," said James "Jamie" Corton, managing partner of Genesis Partners, the developer. "Fiber optics cross all of those things. We look at fiber not necessarily as a utility but as an amenity." 

Genesis Partners hired The Broadband Group of Sacramento, Calif., to develop a technology master plan for the development, which will eventually encompass 1,700 acres. 

It is planned to be a complete, self-contained community with more than 1,700 homes, a traditional "downtown" with retail shops and restaurants, office parks, and indoor and outdoor recreational facilities. 

Corton said $40 million has already been invested in the development. More than $750 million will be invested when it is completed in 15 to 20 years, he said. Charles Pointe is just north of the Jerry Dove Drive exit of Interstate 79. 

Tom Reiman, The Broadband Group's founder and president, said Corton's commitment to install a pure fiber network throughout Charles Pointe makes many things possible. "I think that vision sets the tone for how the community will communicate," he said. 

"The first step we did was, we created a technology master plan for Charles Pointe," Reiman said. The company studied how the community might live in terms of entertainment, information, security, and energy management. 

"To us, the telecommunications story at Charles Pointe goes way beyond telephone and Internet access and entertainment," Reiman said. "It really becomes the life of the community. 

"In addition to a general fiber infrastructure, there will be a community Intranet that will link everyone in the community, based on their area of interest," he said. 

Communications Plus of Westover is building out the infrastructure at Charles Pointe and will be the community's service provider. 

"We will provide the phone service and Internet access, we will be piping in the video, we will maintain the service in the community and we will do the billing," said Walter Burmeister, vice chairman and chief operating officer of TelAtlantic Communications Inc. TelAtlantic is headquartered in Alexandria, Va. It is the corporate parent of Communications Plus. 

"We will operate the Intranet," Burmeister added. "There will be specific Web pages with events going on in the community. When you get up in the morning you can turn on your video screen and see a list of events in the community - what time soccer practice is, what's on at the movies, what's offered at the restaurants. 

"Mom might go off to work and Dad might take the kid to soccer with the day pretty well planned out." 

Reiman said a soccer coach could reserve a field and schedule practices online. 

Burmeister said there will be WiFi hot spots at the pool and the soccer field. "You can log on wirelessly. Dad, down at the soccer field, could e-mail Mom and tell her where they could meet when she's ready for a break. 

"Everybody will be able to communicate totally and seamlessly no matter where they are in the community." 

Every home at Charles Pointe will be pre-wired and will come with a basic level of phone, Internet and video service, Burmeister said. 

"For example, when you move in you can plug in and get 50 channels or so of video, three megabits of Internet service and basic phone service," he said. "If you want premium service, you can call us or log onto the Intranet site and order right over the Intranet -- you won't even have to talk to anyone." 

"You will get one bill for everything -- and you can pay it electronically, too." 

Because United Hospital Center is planning to build a new hospital nearby, "we are anticipating quite a few doctors will live in the community and quite a few will have offices in the community," Burmeister said. Doctors will be able to access reports and magnetic resonance imaging pictures from the hospital while they are at their office or even at home. 

Reiman said, "I am confident the network being installed at Charles Pointe will be among the most advanced pure fiber digital broadband networks in the state. The opportunity to interconnect will be much more significant and much more personalized than it would have been if we had not developed this technology master plan." 

Burmeister said, "I think this is the first of many developments like this in West Virginia and obviously we hope to participate in more of them."