What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor Highlands Mayor

Highlands now has an approved contract with Hotwire Communications to lease dark fiber on the Highlands Fiber System.  The town will be paid $425,000 a year for the 25-year duration of the lease.  The total income will be $10.2 million for the town.  We will have spent $4.6 million in building the fiber system. With Hotwire’s first payment, the town will be taking in more from the lease than it is paying out for the construction loan. The loan will be paid off in about 12 years.

So, what does this all mean? I have been getting numerous questions.

First, Hotwire will also invest several million dollars in extending the fiber network to about 18% of the residents in town that have underground utilities. Hotwire will install underground conduit which is not an inexpensive process.

Second, Hotwire as part of the contract with the town has bought Altitude Broadband.  The town had been operating this small service to residents for a number of years.  With the sale of Altitude to Hotwire, the Town of Highlands is now out of the broadband business.  We will retain a  bundle of fibers in the network to manage our utilities and electric system.  

Third, Hotwire in the coming weeks will open an office in Highlands and begin operations.  It will take them several months to activate the network and sign up customers.  Folks interested in becoming a Hotwire Customer should not call the town to sign up. The town will not be managing Hotwire customer accounts.  Look for Hotwire advertising in the newspaper and radio to learn how to access their services.  Hotwire will offer an array of packages starting with basic broadband and also offering many options for TV, telephone and home management systems.  But,  if someone is happy with their current provider, by all means continue with them.  Like any communications provider, Hotwire will be competing in the open market place.

Finally, if you are a current Altitude Broad Band customer, that service will now be operated by Hotwire. The service will continue without any changes in the coming weeks.  When Hotwire begins operations in Highlands, Altitude customers will have a seamless option to continue with Hotwire, or they can change to a provider of their choice.

After seven years of working to build this world class system, the town board and town staff are delighted to have a private provider operating the network.  I believe it is a strategic event in the life and future of Highlands.  While many communities still struggle with the broad band issue, Highlands is now a fiber optic community.  The possibilities for residents and businesses are transformative.

I hope that young professionals who are now transitioning in the post pandemic world  to telecommuting and working from home will come to live and work in Highlands.  We need a diverse economy that is not just built on tourism. The new fiber optic system might just be a game changer for our town.

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