Projects Critical to Economic Success of People in Alton
(New Gloucester, ME) – Maine-based OTELCO, a division of Otelco Inc., announced today that it has won a ConnectME Authority matching grant that will allow the company to provide high-speed fiber optic broadband service to unserved residents of Alton, Maine. The $78,000 grant will be matched by an equal investment by OTELCO. The grant supported portion of the build-out will serve 33 premises in the area. At its own expense, OTELCO will connect an additional; 36 homes that it passes to reach the area covered by the grant. Most of those 36 additional homes currently have download speeds of between 4 and 10 Mbps and upload speeds of less than 2 Mbps.
The new FTTH network offers a significant upgrade for Alton customers who currently are in contention for bandwidth during peak times due to the low available bandwidth from West Enfield, and can’t receive consistent quality service due to the last-mile copper. Speed tests during the evening hours (peak usage for family entertainment and student homework completion) at 0.87 MB are well below the 1.5 MB threshold used to identify unserved areas defined by the ConnectME authority. OTELCO’s FTTP network will improve service levels, and will deliver speeds of 50 Mbps symmetrical and higher.
“Alton is a very rural area of Maine and people there know high speed broadband service is needed to work remotely or grow an at-home business,” said Biddeford-Maine native and Otelco CEO Rob Souza. “Our company was formed by rural Mainers over 100 years ago when the major phone companies were uninterested in bringing telephone service to rural communities. Today’s announcement that we are investing to bring fiber optic infrastructure to Alton demonstrates our ongoing commitment to making sure rural Maine communities and businesses have the technology they need to compete and win in today’s economy.”
According to Alton residents, there are many businesses, home businesses and students of various ages in the 69 premises either served or passed by the OTELCO project. Jason Beylerian operates Outdoorstockroom, an on-line camping equipment business. In an April email of support for the grant application, he noted that while use of cloud based applications is increasing, his Internet speed has not changed in 10 years, and that it greatly hinders his day-to-day business activities. At the time, his on-line store was just 6-months old, and Jason felt that in order to grow his business, his Internet speed must also grow. “In the six months that I have had my online camping equipment store open, I have found it hard to do essential tasks. I can get them done, but it just takes longer. Time is money, and you don’t stay in business if you’re losing money…We at Outdoorstock.com would benefit greatly by getting real world speeds piped into our home business.”
The Alton Select Board, in a letter of support of the grant, stated, “In Alton, we understand the value of accessible high speed internet for our residents and as a catalyst for economic growth.”
It is important to note that OTELCO will need to set 40 poles over a 9,000’ stretch of Bennoch Road in order to reach the homes. The need to set new poles represented a serious financial challenge to improving service. The ConnectME grant is helping OTELCO overcome that challenge. Vice President of New England Operations, Ed Tisdale, indicated that work on the project has already begun and OTELCO is working with the power company for approval of the proposed pole route. Tisdale anticipates that the project will be completed toward the end of the year.
Otelco Inc. provides wireline telecommunications services in Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia. The Company’s services include local and long distance telephone, digital high-speed data lines, transport services, network access, cable television and other related services. With approximately 99,000 voice and data access lines, which are collectively referred to as access line equivalents, Otelco is among the top 25 largest local exchange carriers in the United States based on number of access lines. Otelco operates eleven incumbent telephone companies serving rural markets, or rural local exchange carriers. It also provides competitive retail and wholesale communications services and technology consulting, managed services and private/hybrid cloud hosting services through several subsidiaries. For more information, visit the Company’s website at www.OtelcoInc.com.
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