Getting down to business - Beyond the voice call

But residential services are only one dimension of the smaller independent ILEC domain. Business services are continuing to be a part of their portfolio. Of course, what kinds of 2-3 ILECs again vary by the area the ILEC serves.

In some cases, ILECs will target business parks unserved by the ILEC and bring fiber right into the park and into the building.

On a slightly smaller scale, Oregon-based Canby Telcom has been finding business park opportunities long before its competition has. A big piece of its portfolio has become Ethernet services.

Offering a mix of 10, 20 and 50 Mbps. Canby also can offer 100 Mbps Ethernet services if the customer requires it. Canby provides 100 Mbps Ethernet WAN that's connected to Canby's schools and their administration group in Oregon.

And if you're an MNC that needs to house a remote office or even your headquarters, Canby offers the amenity of business-grade fiber capabilities. "At their corporate headquarters in a different state they can't get Ethernet even though they want Ethernet here and put a WAN they can't complete the network because of their local larger telephone company."

Other ILECs, including Ritter Communications and ETC, have created a separate CLEC operation to target business opportunities.

Currently, Ritter operates a CLEC in Jonesboro, AK, which is a business hub that serves a hub for 100,000 people. After dealing with the struggles of reselling unbundled network elements (UNEs) from AT&T-a business Ma Bell and others have weaned off of in recent years-Ritter Communications decided to take matters in own hands. In addition, Ritter began seeing certain verticals like medical demand more bandwidth. It's now in the process of overbuilding its CLEC serving footprint with Fiber to the Business (FTTB) capabilities with Alloptic.

"We started building fiber in town primarily in reaction to requests from the medical community for dark fiber wide area networking across the different parts of town," said Ritter's Waits. "Our phase one is to build out the commercial areas and get off AT&T's network and capitalize on the fact that business and residential customers demand more speed and more applications."

One drawback of the growing business base demand has driven seeing capacity constraints on its backbone network. The growth of business services have been a big boon for ETC had to upgrade its OC-48 SONET network.

Seeing increased demand from banking, education and health care customers for 10 Gbps Ethernet services, has deployed Ciena's CN 4200 gear instead of deploying more fiber.

"In our backbone network, we had fiber exhaust and chose to go with Ciena," said Pettit. "We've got some 10 gig circuits on there that we're delivering to customers."

With ongoing sale of their respective assets, it's clear that large incumbent carriers such as Verizon may have turned their backs on the tier 2-3 markets by selling off their rural assets. Unlike the big boys who are looking to satisfy near-term Wall Street concerns, the independent telco represents more community partner. "The local telephone cooperatives or privately-owned companies are really part of the local community, and we look for a longer return on our investment versus an immediate return," said Galitz. "I hope the FCC as they look at their transition plan takes that into consideration because it's not the large carriers that are investing in rural America, but rather the rural telcos that are investing in rural America."

Getting down to business - Beyond the voice call