2019 is shaping up to be a busy year here at OTELCO. We are building new networks, improving existing ones, and even named a new president. It might be challenging to keep up with all the excitement, so we want to take this opportunity to bring our customers up to date.
OTELCO announced plans last month to invest $5 million into our Alabama footprint. This investment includes a new fiber build in Arab, as well as improvements to our existing DSL and Cable networks. It’s shovels in the ground on July 8th in Arab. The build will serve around 4,100 additional locations with Lightwave fiber Internet.
To improve DSL in locations where it’s feasible, we will be investing in Very High Bit Rate DSL (VDSL). The upgrade to VDSL will involve moving equipment closer to customers, changing out our ADSL equipment for VDSL technology, and connecting the new VDSL equipment with fiber. When completed, our DSL speeds will be 2-8 times faster.
By this time next year, most cable customers will also be seeing a dramatic change. The plan is to supply our coaxial customers with gigabit-level speeds, by moving to an all-digital television network and upgrading network hardware.
In Maine, we are about 70% through our Plymouth Lightwave fiber build. What is left is the western portion of the town, including Ridge Rd, Rutland Rd, and lower Detroit Rd. up to the town boundary.
We are also working on broadband projects with Alton and Argyle Township, two rural areas in Penobscot County. These two projects go hand and hand. It all started with a fiber build in Alton back in 2017. That build delivered FTTP to 69 locations in Alton; 260 other locations in town developed a case of “fiber envy.” Within a year of the original build, the Town reached out to OTELCO to bridge that gap between the fiber “haves” and the fiber “haves not.” Since then the town has approved a $150,000 grant, that OTELCO matched with a $290,000 investment, the balance of the necessary funding, a $260,000 grant from the ConnectME Authority, was approved on June 28th. Work will begin later this summer and should be completed in early 2020.
As word of our work with Alton spread, Penobscot County on behalf of the unorganized territory of Argyle approached us with their own case of fiber envy. Penobscot County leaders came to us for help securing a planning grant from the ConnectME Authority. The planning grant will help Argyle determine the feasibility of bringing fiber to the township. The ConnectME Authority awarded a planning grant to OTELCO on June 28th and we are proceeding with planning work.
In Missouri, OTELCO is in the process of moving from an ADSL network to a VDSL. Very High Bit Rate DSL, or VDSL, can produce speeds as high as 100 Mbps. Right now, OTELCO is installing new VDSL cards into our systems. Once that is complete, we will start approaching customers to upgrade their routers. We are also bringing a new 100 Mbps service to the town of Lincoln. We are able to provide this new service by deploying neighborhood access points with a small cell network approach.
In Massachusetts, OTELCO has teamed up with WiValley and the towns of Florida, Hawley, Monroe, and Savory to provide service on the FHMS Wireless Network. The project is being constructed in several phases as multiple transmitters need to be installed on poles and towers.
The first phase of construction is underway in Savoy and is close to completion with several residents helping to beta test the network. This wireless project will allow for speeds up to 100×100 and will serve residents and businesses throughout the four western Massachusetts towns.
Engineering is in the final stages of design work for a fiber to the home project in the vicinity of the West Road in Orwell, Vermont. This project will connect approximately 75 homes with Lightwave. Construction will commence soon after design is completed.
OTELCO welcomed its new president. In May, OTELCO Chief Operating Officer, Richard A. Clark was appointed president. OTELCO CEO Rob Souza will be retiring at the end of 2019. Upon Souza’s retirement, Clark will assume the role of CEO. Souza commented on the change, saying: “Richard is well prepared to provide strategic guidance and direction to the operation of every aspect of our business.”
It has already been a whirlwind year here at OTELCO, and our momentum will carry us into some big plans for 2020, including a commitment to providing a minimum of 25/3 Mbps to approximately 50% of our customers nationwide. Stay tuned into our blog for updates on our mission to bring better broadband to rural America.