Archtop Fiber to build high-speed network in Hudson Valley

ULSTER — More than a year ago, Jeff DeMond started to imagine what it might look like to strategically partner with, or buy, legacy telephone companies in the region and build a robust fiber telephone and internet network spanning the mid-Hudson Valley.

To make this a reality, DeMond has drawn on long-held relationships his business, Archtop Fiber, had with family-owned telephone companies that had been in the Hudson Valley for decades or longer, DeMond said. In his view, the region is entering a much-needed modernization. COVID has driven people out of city centers and into Hudson Valley, and a new remote-work era appears here to stay in many industries. For those reasons, DeMond said, he asked companies if they would be on board with a partnership that would bring their businesses up to speed and address a need for fast, high-capacity internet access.

“When we (Archtop) learned about the underlying need throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond, it made perfect sense to us to not only work with these telephone companies around the state, but to interconnect them, and build a brand-new fiber network throughout the region because the need was there regardless,” DeMond said.

Earlier this month, the extensive fiber project kicked off in Saugerties, which DeMond expects to finish within a year. He said customers will be brought online as sections of the fiber network are completed.

While the Saugerties project is in progress, Archtop will also work on building its network in other places, like the town of Ulster and city of Kingston. It’s unclear how long it will take to complete the regionwide project.

DeMond said other locations for the network will be revealed as more telephone company acquisitions are announced, but that, generally speaking, the network will stretch from the eastern Pennsylvania border to western Massachusetts.

About 1 million New York households did not have access to broadband as of 2019, according to a report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released last year. Nearly half of those live downstate, in and around New York City and Long Island and the mid-Hudson Valley, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission that was included in DiNapoli’s report.

“Broadband connections are an imperative not only for economic development but also for equality of opportunity,” DiNapoli said in the report.

The new network will be, in DeMond’s opinion, mutually beneficial for his Ulster-based company and the communities it will serve: Archtop will expand its brand and profit off a new customer base, while this chunk of the Hudson Valley will gain access to reliable, fast and high-capacity phone and internet service that fiber networks are known for. He noted that it will also create a more competitive market, which usually benefits customers.

“People always love to have choices,” DeMond said. “But in a more direct sense, it’s transformative for a community to have a brand-new fiber network.”

The internet speeds for both uploads and downloads will be up to 10 gigabits per second, DeMond said. “It’s more than 10 times as fast as anything that’s available anywhere up here.”

Archtop’s mid-Hudson project will be funded mostly through its partnership with the private equity firm Post Road Group, which has backed the project with a $350 million investment, according to a news release from Archtop. The company will also benefit from federal government programs that encourage broadband projects in underserved communities. Some of those programs will give money to states that will disperse the funds to different projects, DeMond explained.

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