Independent Optical Networks lights up new opportunities

Middle mile provider Independent Optical Networks' (ION) president Jim Becker was literally born into the telecom industry. Becker's family runs the Middleburgh Telephone Company in Middleburgh, Ny.--one of the oldest of New York State's 40 independent telephone companies. Much like his grandfather Randall Becker, Jim and his brother Jason learned about the family business from the ground up wearing various hats throughout his tenure at the company. 

Those hats included not only running the company's cable business, but also long-distance and data subsidiaries. During that time, he served as President of MIDTEL CABLE TV and MIDTEL NET, two of Middleburgh Tel's unregulated subsidiaries.   

Now, at ION, Becker oversees the day-to-day operations of the company's network and its sales to its member companies that span New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. Simultaneously, Becker continues to serve as the president of the Independent Network Operations Consortium (INOC), a provider of network and collocation services for surrounding service providers and enterprise customers.  

Although ION's expanded network will include Vermont, the genesis of the ION network actually began six years ago when thirteen rural independent ILECs banded together to form what was then called the Empire State Network. ION's move really was not a reinvention of the wheel as a number of other states, including Idaho (Syringa Networks), Iowa (Iowa Network Services), and Tennessee (Palmettonet) have also run similar middle mile networks for a number of years serving both their independent telco members and other carriers. 

"At the time, it just finally made sense for our state to try to tie in all the rural ILECs that are scattered around the state," Becker said. "That really became the basis of what and why we actually built and why we actually built it."