Allegheny Energy subsidiary to expand network

January 27, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

A subsidiary of Hagerstown-based Allegheny Energy Inc. will more than double its fiber-optic network by the end of this year with a multimillion-dollar expansion project in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia, a company official said Wednesday.

Allegheny Communications Connect Inc., part of Allegheny Energy's unregulated Allegheny Ventures arm, will install 600 miles of fiber-optic lines as part of an agreement with Adelphia Business Solutions, said Allegheny Ventures president Paul Barbas.

Under the agreement, Coudersport, Pa.-based Adelphia gets a certain number of fibers and Allegheny retains the rest, which it can use or sell to other fiber-optic companies and telecommunications carriers, Barbas said.

The company already has made deals with major carriers MCI and AT&T to use its fiber-optic lines and is looking at possible retailing of telecommunications applications using the lines, he said.


Several potential partners are interested in ventures that could include packaging telecommunications products with electricity, Barbas said.

"We can't say there are plans in place, but we're looking at it very closely," he said.

The new aerial lines, installed mainly along Allegheny Energy's utility rights of way, can be used for voice, Internet and video communications, computer networks and other telecommunications applications, Barbas said.

They will include continuation of a stretch roughly along Interstate 81 from Harrisburg, Pa., to Winchester, Va., and another linking Hagerstown to Frederick, Md., then heading toward Washington, D.C., before looping around and ending in Winchester, he said.

The company's strategy calls for constructing loops rather than spurs so that in the event of damage to part of the line, traffic can be reversed without disrupting service, Barbas said.

Some of the lines are being built now and others are in the engineering phase, with all lines scheduled for completion by the end of the year, he said.

Formed in 1999, Hagerstown-based Allegheny Ventures has a network of more than 600 miles of fiber-optic lines, mainly resulting from partnerships with Adelphia and other companies, Barbas said.

Allegheny Ventures makes the initial investment, buying the fiber, doing the engineering and design work and constructing the route, then recoups part of the cost from its partner, he said.

Because of the agreement with Adelphia, Barbas said he couldn't reveal how much of an investment Allegheny is making in the latest extension except to say it's "significant, multimillions."

Allegheny Ventures has unique routes in Allegheny Energy territory, which makes it attractive to large carriers like MCI and AT&T, Barbas said.

Another advantage it has is that all of its network is "lit" as it's constructed, meaning that the electronics that send light waves through the fiber are inserted as the lines are installed rather than later, he said.

"That means they're ready to serve customers almost immediately," Barbas said.

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