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Telepak brings big-city tech ‘SNAP’ to small town

Roxie — Located in Franklin County in Southwest Mississippi, the Town of Roxie holds a population of less than 600 citizens. Yet, the tiny community is set to get some “big city,” cutting-edge telecommunication services provided by Jackson-based Telepak Networks in partnership with Optical Solutions Inc. of Minneapolis.

The service has been dubbed “SNAP,” and is actual a bundle of products offering any combination of telephone, Internet and television services to subscriber homes, all through one line. It represents Mississippi’s first fiber to the home (FTTH) network, and will utilize Optical Solutions’ FiberPath 500 system, which, according to the company, is the first commercially available system of its kind in the industry.

The system will work from a central office, which will route the service to subscribers. Each subscribing household will have a small box on the outside of the dwelling, similar to a television cable box, that will actually bring the service in the home.

So, why are Telepak and Optical Solutions bringing this state-of-the-art package to the tiny community of Roxie? Telepak is quick to answer that serving rural communities in Mississippi is nothing new for it.

“We have a 50-year history of serving small communities in Mississippi, and we’re eager to continue that tradition by being the first to introduce an advanced network that will not only enrich peoples’ lives, but create new economic opportunities, as well,” said Steven Meadows, sales manager at Telepak.

According to Meadows, Telepak has been working on the Roxie project for approximately two years, and the deployment is expected to take from 10-12 months. The target date for having SNAP up and running in Roxie is the end of November or the first of December.

Telepak will use Roxie as a test bed for future rollouts in other small markets. The company is working out details with city officials for a rollout in Crystal Springs, which is expected in the next 10-12 months.

Meadows said Telepak conducted in-depth analyses of the type of system and operation that would make the rollout cost-effective while at the same time offering Roxie residents a quality product. In the end, the company found Optical Solutions’ product a perfect fit.

Mike Dagenais, president and CEO of Optical Solutions, said he not only appreciates the business, but also Telepak’s focus on small-town Mississippi. “We applaud Telepak’s dedication and service commitment to the people of Mississippi. By introducing FTTH to underserved communities, Telepak is helping those who were once left behind get on a fast track to greater opportunity and a better quality of life.”

Telepak is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Telapex Inc., a Jackson-based telecommunications company. Telapex’s affiliates have a long history in Mississippi, including two that have been offering telephones services in the state for more than 40 years. It has found its niche by serving such rural communities as Meadville and those in the Mississippi Delta. (The company’s affiliates include Branch Cable, which already operates in Roxie, and thus offered a convenient rollout locale since the company already had a long relationship in the community.)

Telepak, which has 20-25 employees involved in the Roxie project, offers Telapex’s original service offerings, and began offering Internet-related services, including dial-up, Web development and hosting, in 1996. The following year, it began providing local and long distance telephone services on a single bill. And in 1999, the company added fiber optic interexchange service to its lineup.

Today, Telepak provides commercial broadband, Internet and local and long distance telephone services, with a number of options available in each service offering. Also, via its fiber optic and other broadband facilities, it provides bandwidth to other carriers, Internet service providers, universities, governmental agencies, hospitals and businesses. It maintains more than 1,780 miles of fiber optic cable throughout the Mississippi, as well as Tennessee, Louisiana and Florida, states where it is certified as a competitive local exchange carrier. It is this fiber optic network that is bringing SNAP to households in Roxie.

Meadows pointed to another advantage of the network — it’s underground. He said that doesn’t make Telepak’s system weather proof, but does make it weather resistant, especially compared to aerial systems. The loss of communications post-Hurricane Katrina was a huge hurdle, and a more weather-capable system should be welcome.

“Hurricane Katrina didn’t slow us down, it sped us up,” Meadows said.

Currently, Telepak’s main business is commercial broadband services. However, Meadows said the FTTH network such as the one being built in Roxie could become significant to the company. And more services may be offered in the future, such as high-definition television and video-on-demand.

“How it goes in Roxie and Crystal Springs will tell us more about what our future will look like,” he said. “Right now, we’re excited about the possibilities.”

Telepak’s relationship with Optical Solutions has been a good one, Meadows said. Optical Solutions has been a good partner in the rollout, and has a lot of new products currently in its laboratory. Meadows said Telepak would use Optical Solutions for the Crystal Springs rollout, and while he couldn’t say whether the relationship would extend beyond that, he had nothing but kudos for the company.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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