Everyone at independent ILEC Middleburgh Telephone, including 86-year old company president Marjorie Becker, is an advocate of a Fiber to the Home.
"Our stance right now is that in the next 5-7 years we're going to overbuild our entire territory with Fiber to the Home," said Jason Becker, General Manager, Middleburgh Telephone Company, a fourth-generation family employee.
But unlike other service providers that are emphasizing building out FTTH into dense areas, Becker thinks it's just as important to target remote areas. Why? Well, not only is the cost of conducting service calls in these areas more expensive, but it could also be another opportunity to reach these customers with video service.
"I know most company's strategy is to overbuild their congested areas and never do anything with the remote areas, but if you left the copper customers out there you're going to be truck rolling to the farthest reaches more often," explains Becker. It also opens cable TV services to customers we can't reach now."
Up until the mid-1990s, Middleburgh was your typical independent ILEC providing local phone service and not much else.
But like many independent ILECs, Middleburgh decided to diversify itself in the late 80s and 1990s by getting into the video business by building out its own cable TV business, creating a Long Distance company (Middleburgh Telephone Long Distance) and providing of course DSL and dial up Internet services.
More recently, Middleburgh realized that if it's going to be able to compete with large incumbent Verizon and other cable operators looming large in its territory, a Fiber to the Home (FTTH) strategy is the only way.
What initially drove Middleburgh to consider FTTH was an ongoing investigation into IPTV. Seeing a lack of integration between STBs and other network elements, the telco could not make a case for IPTV. Instead it built out a 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) HFC digital video head end. Just the same, Middleburgh saw Verizon's RF overlay video FTTH model and the emergence of GPON as a perfect fit to extend not only its digital services, but also maintain its 60-channel analog video service.
Now, the service provider is overbuilding both its Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) and its copper networks with fiber with Motorola as its GPON supplier. In essence, Middleburgh is building a bridge between its HFC-based network to fiber that can help it maintain its RF-based analog and digital video investment while being able to create a foundation for other future video services.
"When we started looking at the metrics of installation and upgrading customers to FTTH, if that customer has not STB in the house or has one main TV most customers only want digital services on one main TV and the rest rooms can be served by analog video," Becker said. "As we pass by a home with Fiber to the home, we just disconnect the coax drop and hook up the ONT and we don't have to do any in-home wiring or install any IP set top boxes."
But don't think for a minute that Becker thinks that just because he's got FTTH that his service will be better than satellite or the cable company. What will set Middleburgh apart from the competition is one common fundamental: customer service.
"When I speak to groups or internally here, I always say there's no magic fairy dust that's going to pop out of that fiber and change these people's lives," Becker said. "You still have to better than DirecTV or Time Warner or offer a differentiator there, and for us that's been customer service and quality of service."