Local economic developers visited a high speed internet provider in Taylorville on Friday, May 5, who is interested in expanding to Montgomery County – provided there is enough demand for the service.
The group met with CTI, a company founded by President Billy Williams and Vice President Adam Vocks in Taylorville in 1998 as a computer service company, but has since expanded to a rigorous internet service provider bringing high-speed fiber optic cables to homes and businesses.
In Taylorville, services range from 25x25 Mb internet for $39.95 a month to one gigabyte for $69.95. Services can also be bundled with 25x25 Mb internet plus basic TV and basic phone starting at $79.85 a month. Phone service options, faster internet, premium TV channels and DVR options are also available.
According to Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) Executive Director Valerie Belusko, "for CTI to expand their services to Montgomery County, we need to prove that we have a strong interest for their services." That means that at least 20 percent of households and businesses in Hillsboro, Litchfield, Nokomis or Raymond must fill out a form online that they are likely to sign up for service once it becomes available. To do so, visit ww2.ctitech.com/montgomerycounty/ and click "I'm Interested" and fill out the online form by June 9.
"This is not a contract," Belusko said. "By electronically filling out the online form, CTI will know there is a strong desire for fiber optic internet service and it is healthy for them to expand their business in Montgomery County."
Belusko said CTI fiber service could begin as early as January 2018 and the company is already considering opening a business office in the county.
During their meeting on Friday, Williams told the Montgomery County contingent that the company initially provided wireless service, but seven tech employees on staff had difficulty keeping up with repairs.
"We are convinced fiber is the way to go because once it is in the ground, there is virtually no maintenance unless someone cuts it," Williams said. "From a business standpoint, we have to build out the towns first so revenue can be coming in, but our goal is to serve rural areas as well."
Just like their existing system in Taylorville, CTI is proposing a fiber ring through Montgomery County that would allow for redundant fiber on each end. Spurs would build out from the ring.
CTI employs its own construction crew for build-outs (not contractors), and the county contingent stopped at a build site at the Timber Lake subdivision just south of Taylorville on their trip Friday.
"The directional drill that we saw in action can drill up to 300 feet laterally underground at a time," economic developer and fiber proponent Heather Hampton+Knodle said. "That results in very little plowing through people's yards. They prefer to be able to go through back alleys because there is usually less existing infrastructure like natural gas or water lines there, and they can place one "hand hole" to serve multiple houses."
A "hand hole" is like a manhole in that the final lid lays flush with the ground, but it is much smaller; big enough to reach in and pull up a line if necessary.
In addition to talking to the company's owners and visiting a build-out site, visitors from Montgomery County also met with CTI customers.
"When we switched to fiber with CTI at 200 mbps up and down, and switched phones, it reduced our internet and phone costs by 80 percent," according to Matt Beckley, a CPA and co-owner of HSSB CPA Firm and Tax Tech.
Tax Tech was previously served by three T-1 lines supporting 1300 retail tax locations with employees from California to Texas to South Carolina. Beckley reported almost no downtime since switching to CTI fiber, and the new phone system can handle more than 100 people on hold, up from 48 before.
Linda Crawford, president of First National Bank of Taylorville, also used to rely on T-1 and cable-based providers. Their branch in Mt. Auburn would literally have to wait 15 minutes for information to tile from the main bank at Taylorville.
"It's the best thing we've ever done," Crawford said of the switch to CTI, "the phone the fiber – it's perfect."
In addition to Belusko and Hampton+Knodle, on the tour from Montgomery County were Dave and Merle Imler, Montgomery County Board members Megan Beeler, Evan Young and Glenn Savage, Montgomery County IT Director Curt Watkins, Tim Brookshire of Nokomis, and David Jenkins.
The MCEDC will be scheduling business consultation hours so business owners can meet with CTI in person to explore service options.