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City man starts up telephone company

July 22, 1999|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

A Hagerstown man has started a telephone company that he expects will offer local and long-distance service to homes and businesses in Western Maryland and West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle by the end of the year.

Clint Wiley said he was prompted to start the company because of the mounting phone bills his Internet service company, New Frontiers Internet Services, was paying to Bell Atlantic.

He knew that thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and technological strides shrinking the size and cost of equipment he could start his own telephone company and cut expenses.

Considering the huge investment in equipment necessary for the endeavor, it made sense to go a step further, said Wiley.

His new company, New Frontiers Telecommunications, was formed about eight months ago. It gained approval from the Maryland Public Service Commission in April and is awaiting approval in West Virginia, Wiley said.

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New Frontiers Internet Services offers an array of Internet-related services, including standard dial-up and high-speed Internet access, Web hosting, Web design, e-commerce setups and networking services, Wiley said.

"We're kind of the jack of all trades when it comes to Internet as it is. This will help round out our offerings," he said.

The company will start offering the new services in November or December, he said.

At the same time, the company will expand its service area beyond the Hagerstown and Frederick, Md., and Martinsburg, W.Va., areas to include Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland and more of West Virginia, Wiley said.

The company will grow from six to 12 employees by the end of the summer, with several to be hired once the new service starts and more added as the customer base grows, he said.

Unlike most of the roughly 50 companies approved to provide local phone service in Maryland, New Frontiers is a facilities-based competitive local exchange carrier, or CLEC, said Public Service Commission spokesman Robert Harris.

That means the company owns its own switching equipment as opposed to a reseller, which gets a discounted rate for the use of Bell Atlantic switches and lines then resells it to phone service customers.

Facilities-based CLECs are rarer than resellers because of the higher costs, Harris said.

Of the companies approved to provide local service in Maryland, probably fewer than half are doing it, he said.

While approval covers the entire state, it doesn't mean the carrier has to serve the whole state or has the ability or desire to do so, Harris said.

PUC records don't show where in the state the carriers are soliciting customers, he said.

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