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AREA'S 4TH FIBER-OPTIC LOOP IN PLACE

A Rochester company has completed a ring of fiber-optic cable encircling greater Buffalo's business hot spots, providing a new source of voice and data connections for phone companies and large businesses.

Fibertech Networks has completed a fiber loop through the business districts of Buffalo, Tonawanda, Amherst and West Seneca. The network provides competition for fiber networks already in place from Adelphia Business Solutions, Telergy and the dominant provider Verizon.

"At a time when many telecom companies are experiencing financial difficulties, it's encouraging to see the kind of investment Fibertech is willing and able to make in our community," Common Council President James W. Pitts said in a statement.

After a rush of success in the 1990s, competitive communications companies have fallen out of favor with investors, leaving some in shaky condition. Syracuse-based Telergy, which also owns a fiber network here, said it was unable to pay its debts and fired three-quarters of its work force.

Fibertech is part-owned by Choice One Communications, and has venture capital backing from Navis Partners in Providence, R.I., and Bank of American Capital Investors.

The company is a "carrier's carrier," meaning it leases strands of fiber to telephone companies. Among its customers are upstarts Choice One Communications and CTC Communications, which market to small- and medium-sized business customers. By leasing lines from Fibertech, the upstart companies can reduce their dependence on rival Verizon.

Under a 20-year deal, Choice One will pay Fibertech $100 million for fiber rights in upstate New York and at least 13 other cities.

"It gives us greater control of our own network and less dependence on Verizon," spokesman Ythan Lax said.

Large corporations, school districts and government agencies will also be able to lease Fibertech's lines, purchasing "unlimited bandwidth at an affordable price," chief operating officer Frank Chiaino said in a statement. Depending on the technology used to push information through it, a single strand of fiber can carry the equivalent of hundreds or thousands of simultaneous phone conversations.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com

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