Town of Ulster-based Archtop Fiber is presenting themselves not only as the future of broadband for local customers, but also as a good place to work.
Shawn Beqaj, chief development officer of the Town of Ulster-based company, made a presentation before the Ulster Town Board on Thursday, October 20, describing a digital communications system that could compete with local provider Spectrum.
“It’s not just any broadband system,” said Beqaj. “It’s a fiber to the home, fully modern system which is available in very few places in the world at this point.”
Beqaj said Archtop is already fully funded with around $350 million in private funding through pension funds and long-term investments, and has made a deal with Central Hudson to install along existing poles to cover around 1,000 miles up and down the Hudson River. The company is building an XGS-PON network capable of up to 10 gigabits per second. Beqaj said the difference between XGS-PON and connections with lower bandwidth is revolutionary.
“When you are struggling to get a few megabits through your Verizon DSL technology, as advanced as it has become through their DOCSIS system, when you get a gig, or 10 gigs…it’s really a transformational moment when you get that,” he said. “It’s virtually unlimited bandwidth that we’re offering.”
The new company is already based in the Town of Ulster, but will eventually move into iPark 87, the ambitious new multi-use project planned at the former TechCity. That property was purchased in June of this year by National Resources, a transaction which included the exchange of 18 parcels for the eradication of $10.82 million in unpaid taxes by former owner Allen Ginsberg. The property deeds for the parcels were transferred to the Ulster County Economic Development Alliance, and were then sold to National Resources for $5 million to be paid over a five-year period, with a commitment to cover a minimum of $7 million in environmental cleanup costs, removal of debris, and completion of interior demolition of abandoned buildings.
112 miles, 3774 homes
According to the presentation, Archtop is proposing 112 miles of fiber across the Town of Ulster, with 90 miles aerially distributed and 22 miles underground. The plan could see 3,774 homes connected, with 385 businesses also accessible for 10gb of symmetrical internet, plus residential and business telephone service.
The plan is also touted as environmentally friendly, with no powered equipment needed outside of the Archtop office.
“We’re going to be starting breaking ground right here in Ulster Town,” Beqaj said. “We have entered into agreements with the pole owners and the pole attachers. We have hired the technical people to design it, we have hired the firms and the contractors who will build it, we have chosen the technology on which it will operate…We are in the process of designing, permitting and ultimately constructing the network.”
Beqaj said the move into iPark 87 will bring with it more job opportunities with Archtop.
“We are either the first or are going to be one of the first tenants at the iPark facility,” he said. “We’re building out about 80 seats, and all of those seats are well-paying jobs in the high-tech industry.”
Archtop is hoping to fill those jobs locally, provided they can find qualified candidates who are interested in showing up in person.
“We are trying to hire local as possible,” he said. “We still see the value in seeing people day-to-day as opposed to work-from-home, and we are struggling a little bit with the new culture in that regard, but we are pretty passionate about bringing people into this community with well-paying, high-tech jobs.”
Beqaj said the Hudson Valley appealed to Archtop in part due to its inconsistent broadband service.
“We have been interested in this area, and it may be difficult to hear, largely because it was forsaken by the incumbents. The level of investment in this area by the existing providers is so low that it makes it attractive to us because it would be such a huge differentiation,” he said.
In order to bring that service to the region, Archtop is seeking partnerships with local municipalities.
“The concept is that the public-private partnership…would help them gain entree to the federal and state programs for the subsidies that are required to finance the underserved areas,” said Ulster Town Supervisor James E. Quigley, III.
Beqaj said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed a vast chasm between those who were connected and those who were not.
“The digital divide between people that have broadband and the people that don’t became very, very stark,” he said. “And there was a political will from the federal government, down to state and local governments, to do something about it…Broadband is no longer a ‘nice to have: You are severely disadvantaged as a household if you don’t have it. Whether it’s education, whether it’s banking, whether it’s safety, if you don’t have adequate broadband you are less capable than a home or a company that does.”
Town officials said they plan to officially present the idea of a partnership between the Town of Ulster and Archtop Fiber at their next meeting, planned for Thursday, November 3. Quigley said it could take around four weeks after that for anything to become formalized.
For a low down of who is running check out: https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2022/10/25/election-2022-so-now-whos running/.