Slic takes over Keene Valley internet

KEENE VALLEY– Slic Network Solutions, an internet provider based in Nicholville, has entered into a contract to purchase Keene Valley Video & Internet.

A notice on the door of KVVI’s building in Keene Valley directs people to send their bill payments to Nicholville after May 14. KVVI serves approximately 600 subscribers with its cable TV and internet services.

According to a press release Slic posted on NextDoor Keene — an online neighborhood news service — “The fast-growing Slic currently has more than 6,500 subscribers and approximately 1,200 fiber miles of infrastructure, and is expected to build another 1,200 fiber miles over the next 18 months, connecting many rural towns throughout the Adirondack Park. With approximately 40 employees, Slic has substantial resources and know-how which it intends to bring to Keene to improve reliability and to broaden services.”

At the end of February, the company submitted a petition to the Public Service Commission, a state department that oversees utilities for approval. Documents submitted to the PSC by Slic and 5Loop, its principal owner, state that KVVI will continue to exist as a separate corporate entity, although in the future they may transfer management to Slic “if it appears to be more efficient and better for its subscribers.”

Slic also stated that it intends to keep longtime employee John LaFountaine, “who has served so many in the community for many years and who has a profound depth of knowledge of the KVVI system and customers … in a similar capacity with the support of the Slic team.”

Much of Slic’s expansion has been ignited by state funding support for broadband buildout in rural areas, which big providers like Verizon have disdained. With too few customers to support the cost of poles, wire, and other infrastructure, internet service companies found little incentive to build. However, the state’s Broadband Now program has infused massive amounts of cash to expand the internet throughout the state. Three phases of funding disburse grant monies to providers willing and able to expand the broadband infrastructure. First, the companies build the system, and then the state reimburses (percentage of) the cost.

Slic has received state support for broadband expansion in all three phases of the program (Phase Three is just beginning). To reach 6,775 customers in the Capital Region and the North Country, the company was granted $26 million in Phase 3 funding. Private and federal funding adds another $21 million, for a total project cost more than $47 million.

KVVI began in 1979, when Tim Whitney and George Bright set the original satellite dish at the Keene Valley Garage. Whitney bought out Bright and became sole owner of the stock, which will now pass to Slic.

In 2006, a grassroots fundraising campaign, assisted by the High Peaks Education Foundation, enabled KVVI to establish internet infrastructure throughout the town of Keene. The campaign provided accessible internet service to 95 percent of the town residents and 100 percent of the school students.

Brad Pattelli, Slic’s CEO said, “We look forward to being a responsible steward of this critical service for all in the Keene community and to continuing the endeavor that Tim started nearly four decades ago.”

Kevin Lynch, Slic’s Chief Operating Officer added, “We expect to provide a full suite of triple play services and to upgrade the network in order to provide greater speeds and address the ever-increasing demands for bandwidth. In addition, we will be working to bring an improved television solution to residents, while combating the nearly triple digit cost increases being incurred by small systems like KVVI from the large television networks.”

The deal will increase KVVI’s “throughput,” the rate of successful data delivery through the system, according to the press release.

One Keene resident seemed indifferent about the switch to Slic. Owner and operator of Riveremede Farm Market Rob Hastings said any problems with the current broadband are never too substantial.

“There’s occasionally heavy usage and things slow down for a bit,” he said. “You know, when all the kids get out of school and log on, sometimes it slows down.”

Hastings said people are mainly concerned about whether the price would change.

Keene Town Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson II submitted a letter of support to the PSC, stating the town’s support for the contract. Wilson wrote that the Town supports the Slic takeover because the company has assured the town it will continue to provide service at a reasonable cost. In addition, Wilson wrote, he’s been assured the valley will receive internet service that meets or exceeds the state definitions of broadband, and offers symmetrical upload and download speeds. He also said Slic will transition the current TV customers of KVVI to future models of TV delivery without unreasonably abrupt or severe price shocks, maintain a high level of customer service, have a grievance process that is responsive to customers, continue to invest in the system and keep reasonably current with future generations of internet technology.

Enterprise Staff Writer Griffin Kelly contributed to this article.


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