Erie Company Losing “Velocity” In Fiber Build Out

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Joel Deuterman, CEO of Velocity Network, is trying to bring residential fiber-optic internet service to Erie residents but his company is woefully behind, according to Government Technology.

Deuterman doesn’t even advertise his company’s service anymore. “We are so far behind it’s embarrassing, which is why we don’t market it anymore,” he said. Deuterman anticipated having 2,000 customers by now; that number is closer to 500.

Velocity Network’s main challenge has been gaining access to existing utility poles, 70 percent of which are owned by FirstEnergy Corp., with the remainder owned by Verizon Communications. This process has been slower and more expensive than Dueterman anticipated.  

Approval permits are required before Velocity, or any other company can attach its lines to a utility pole, noted Government Technology.

“Whenever we get a request for a new attachment, someone must physically visit and inspect each and every pole to determine whether there is adequate space available for new equipment,” said Todd Meyers, a spokesman for FirstEnergy. “The National Electric Safety Code mandates specific clearances between wires. Sometimes the pole is ready to accommodate new equipment and work can proceed. Other times, our contractors must perform ‘make-ready’ work before new facilities can be attached.”

Meyers noted that the request for new attachments has swelled from a few hundred per day to thousands, making it challenging to keep up with the demand. Additionally, Deuterman’s costs have increased from $50 per pole to $350, a seven-fold increase. In some cases, the bill for stringing the wire to another pole far exceeds $350, reported Government Technology.

These challenges aren’t unique to Velocity or FirstEnergy Corp., owned by Penelec. “This is a systemic problem in the industry. We need some consistency,” said Brad Wiertel, Velocity’s chief operating officer.

June 12, 2019

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