Buffalo will get another competitor in the business telecommunications arena in November, when Community Networks Inc. plugs in its network between upstate cities, the company said.
The move lengthens a roster of competitors in the market for local service. Other recent entrants include Choice One Communications, PaeTec Inc. and Adelphia Business Solutions, formerly called Hyperion.
Community Networks, based in New York City, has operated in Buffalo since 1998 as a reseller of lines owned by Bell Atlantic. Installing its own switch, in Syracuse, plus companion equipment in Buffalo gives the company greater flexibility in pricing and service to compete with the dominant local carrier, officials said.
"Our Syracuse switching center will be our upstate launching pad for advanced communications features and services, such as high-speed Internet access," company president Vern Kennedy said.
The new entrant is focusing on the Digital Subscriber Line technology that promises to cut prices for small-business Internet access. By making greater use of a single copper phone line, so-called "DSL" service can cut prices of high-speed access by more than 50 percent, Kennedy and other carriers said.
Service starting at $50 a month for 128,000 bits per second (128 kbps,) is aimed at small businesses that often face pricier options for data connections, Kennedy said.
Bell Atlantic offers a T1 line, the staple of business telecommunications with 1.5 million bits per second, for $600 to $800. A DSL connection with similar speed costs $114.95 for businesses, $99.95 for consumers, spokeswoman Joan Rasmussen said.
"To consumers and generally to small business it provides an option they may not have had before," she said.
However, the DSL connection operates slower when uploading and can't handle voice traffic. In addition, customers need to be within three miles of the phone company's central office, or even closer at the highest speeds.
Choice One, based in Rochester, is selling DSL at prices starting at $175 a month, representative Phil Yawman said. Coming technology will allow the transmission of voice as well as data, he said, though it will add equipment costs.
PaeTec is looking at DSL service that operates at high speed in both directions, sales manager Mark Winkle said, making it suitable for heavy Internet users. Pricing is undetermined.
Some carriers said the advent of DSL service is likely to erode T1 usage, a staple of the business world.
"They (Bell Atlantic) are in a tough position," said Kennedy of Community Networks. "Slowly but surely, their high-margin products are being chipped away at." The company services 70,000 subscriber lines throughout New York.
Rasmussen said some T1 subscribers may switch to DSL for its lower costs. But the new technology will also attract new customers or those using slower dial-up connections, she said.