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Slic broadband Internet project advances

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Serving the unserved: This seems to be the motto of Slic Network Solutions, a branch of the Nicholville Telephone Co., which has been installing high-speed Internet in rural areas of upstate New York.

Slic’s story is one of much growth throughout the years and it was recently awarded a grant to aid in its expansion.

The Empire State Development Board of Directors announced in a news release on Nov. 15 that it approved $116 million in grants and loans “to support business growth, create 236 new jobs and retain 784 existing jobs in New York State.”

Of these funds, Slic received $2,225,033 for its $30 million project in St. Lawrence County and $425,987 for the $5.75 million Franklin County portion of this venture, for a total of $2,651,020, according to the release.

Philip J. Wagschal, Slic’s president and general manager, said Wednesday that once the project is complete, 660 miles of fiber optic wiring will have been installed in St. Lawrence County. It will provide those within the service area with a high-speed, broadband Internet connection.

The funds earmarked for Franklin County will aid Slic with installing 139 miles of fiber optics in the western portion of the county.

Construction began in September 2010 for both areas, but will not be finished until March 2014.

“We accelerated the schedule considerably,” said Mr. Wagschal, adding that actual construction will be complete by March 2013. Installing Internet connections for new customers is estimated to be finished by the summer of 2014, he said.

When complete, Mr. Wagschal anticipates more than 5,000 customers will be added to its 2,500 customer pool, totalling around 8,000.

He said that when the build began, through some studies it was discovered that around 17 percent of the people in the new St. Lawrence County service area had access to high-speed Internet; for Franklin County it was lower, at 10 percent.

Mr. Wagschal said having high-speed Internet in rural communities, especially places with seasonal residents, could directly benefit the economy.

He said keeping seasonal consumers around for a prolonged stay benefits local businesses and could help them to remain open.

Though the Nicholville Telephone Company has been around for 110 years, according CEO Mark Dzwonczyk, Slic was established in 1995. Together, both entities currently employ 48 people.

Mr. Wagschal said he’s been with the company since 1989 and became president of Slic in 2004. He noted that it has been a longtime tradition for Nicholville Telephone Company, and now Slic, to connect rural upstate New York with telephone service and now Internet.

“In the transition from dial-up to broadband, we were one of the first to push DSL [digital subscriber line] into the rural communities,” he said.

Though Slic is devoted to reaching out to the unserved, both Mr. Wagschal and Mr. Dzwonczyk said someday the company may look to compete with other companies in places that already have high-speed Internet, which they termed as an “over build.” However, Mr. Wagschal said the company would need to transition from being a local company to becoming larger scale.

“I think that’s a distinct possibility,” Wagschal said. “I think the potential is there.”

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