March 5, 2015

(Naples, NY) It's been nearly 10 years since the inception of Ontario County's open access fiber ring, and local leaders are marking the anniversary with Empire Access, which this month is officially launching 1 Gigabit speeds and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service in the county, starting in the village of Naples.

Axcess Ontario, the public-benefit corporation that owns and operates the 200-plus-mile fiber ring, paved the way for Empire Access to offer the 1 Gigabit and FTTH service in Ontario County. Based in Prattsburgh, NY, Empire Access provides Telephone, Internet, Digital TV, Security and Home Automation products and services to customers in New York and Pennsylvania.

This first-of-its-kind service in Ontario County is launching in Naples in large part because the community has become the hub and connection point for two open-access dark-fiber networks, Axcess Ontario and the Southern Tier Network.

"It's amazing to think that the small village of Naples is the first community to get 1 Gigabit and fiber-to-the-home in Ontario County," said Axcess Ontario board chairman John Sheppard. "When we started working on the fiber ring 10 years ago, many of us assumed the first community would be Victor. But technology and serendipity have made it possible for idyllic Naples to be the first."

"Empire Access is proud to launch 1 Gigabit service and fiber-to-the-home in Ontario County," said Bob VanDelinder, Director of Marketing, Empire Access. "We're starting service in the village of Naples this month, but with Axcess Ontario's support, we hope to expand quickly into the town in the coming year."

Village of Naples Mayor Brian Schenk says the service will be a game-changer for the community's economy.

"We are thrilled to see 1 Gigabit service and fiber-to-the-home launch in Naples," he said. "Those of us who live here and work here cherish our beautiful, Finger Lakes community. Now, with 1 Gigabit and fiber to the home, more people and more businesses can invest in Naples and experience it for themselves."

Naples Town Supervisor John Cowley said this development puts the town in the same league as other communities that have received, or are slated to receive, Google Fiber. Current Google Fiber communities include Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; Austin, Texas; and Provo, Utah. Four others are pending: Atlanta; Charlotte, NC; Raleigh–Durham, NC; and Nashville, Tenn.

"Entrepreneurs and start-up companies don't have to move to a Google Fiber community," Cowley said. "Instead, they can come to the beautiful Finger Lakes wine country, to Naples, and enjoy an unparalleled quality of life."

The Hunt Hollow Ski Club is Empire Access' first business customer in the Naples area. Joe Callaghan, General Manager at Hunt Hollow, encourages other businesses to work with Empire Access and consider Naples.

"I have to say that everyone that I have dealt with at Empire has been top notch," Callaghan said. "I was honestly surprised at the pride and knowledge that they had, and they actually were following up to see if everything was working the way it should. At times, I felt like we were their only customer. As far as the fiber is concerned, it gives us reliability that we have not had — ever — and the speed that we desperately lacked. We also have a sense of partnership, meaning that our voices will always be heard by someone who actually cares about our business."

The Axcess Ontario fiber ring has been recognized as a national broadband model and is the epitome of 21st century public infrastructure. Like its mid-century counterpart, the New York State Thruway, the fiber ring paves the way for economic growth. The ring itself is comprised of dark fiber, provides no services, and therefore does not compete with private-sector telecom and broadband companies. Instead, telecom and broadband companies like Empire Access sign master agreements with Axcess Ontario to use the fiber ring to provide services at competitive rates.

With the new agreement with Empire Access, the fiber ring's ultimate goal of providing fiber-to-the-home service has now been achieved, said Ed Hemminger, one of the original founders of the fiber ring and Axcess Ontario's first CEO.

"Ten years ago, we had a dream of one day having 1 Gigabit and fiber-to-the-home service in Ontario County," he said. "Today, that dream has come true. And we didn't need Google to do it — we did it ourselves."

Fiber-to-the-home changes everything, Sheppard said. An entrepreneur who wants to start a home-based business or an employee who wants to work from home can do so with ease. Not only will they have instant access to the online global marketplace, but they'll also have confidence that their home-based Internet connection will be as fast, as reliable, and as competitively priced as any other community.

"Imagine schoolchildren using their iPads to video-guide their counterparts halfway across the world through the Cumming Nature Center, with little-to-no Internet disruption," Sheppard said. "With today's announcement, it's easy to imagine."

About Axcess Ontario
Imagine where fiber technology can take us. Axcess Ontario has. With an open-access, dark-fiber infrastructure and a non-profit approach — serving as an example for a national model — the 200-plus-mile fiber ring has Ontario County on the fast track to greater economic development, better quality of life, and global competitiveness. By providing this critical source for advanced connectivity and increased flexibility through quicker, more affordable broadband, businesses and organizations, as well as residents, will have improved capabilities like never before. For more information, visit www.axcessontario.com.

About Empire Access
After starting in 1896 with one telephone line in Prattsburgh, NY, Empire/North Penn Telephone has grown significantly as a family-owned, locally based communications provider serving large areas of Upstate New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Today's Empire offers a wide range of products and services from basic phone service to IP digital phone, scalable high-speed Fiber Optic Internet, basic to enhanced digital TV service to advanced security solutions. Answering a variety of business and consumer needs, Empire continues to expand into new areas while retaining a strong focus on local, personalized customer service. The company's Website can be found at www.empireaccess.com.