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Allconet ceremony celebrates technology
Salt Lake City company introducing residential, commercial wireless
services over unique local network
By Sam Shawver, Times-News Staff Writer
Saturday, August 27, 2005 9:19 AM EDT
CUMBERLAND - As Jeff Blank tells it, Allconet 2 was birthed over a
couple of beers at a local restaurant.
"They turned to me and said, 'Why can't we build it?'" Blank, supervisor
of microcomputing and technology for Allegany County schools, told a
group of state, county and business representatives Friday.
Approximately 75 people, including the Allegany County commissioners,
county department of economic development, and representatives of CONXX
Inc. were gathered at the County Office Complex to officially celebrate
the "arrival of wireless communication in Allegany County."
It was the year 2000, and Allegany County, like many other rural
counties across the nation, was desperately seeking a way to lure
high-tech companies out of the metro areas to help replace lost jobs
from the closing of old "smokestack" industries.
"Tom Cooley (county economic development director) and his people had
shifted focus from smokestack to high-tech industry," Blank said.
"Companies wanted to locate here, but they had telecommunications
infrastructure problems. We lost jobs because of that lack of
"They asked what we could do, and the telecom companies said (a system)
would take about $1 million," he said.
The state delegation was able to obtain the $1 million, but the telecom
companies raised the price tag to $2 million. The state representatives
brought back $2 million, but the companies raised the price again,
eventually asking for $5 million to develop the needed infrastructure to
offer high-speed broadband services.
"Finally they said, 'If we put it in for you for $5 million, we'll have
to put this into every small community for the same amount, and we can't
do that,'" said Blank. "I just threw my hands up and we went out for a
At the time the board of education, library, county government and city
of Cumberland were connected through Allconet 1, an unlicensed wireless
computer network that Blank had helped develop strictly for local
government use. Blank was asked what it would take to upgrade that
network to meet the telecommunications infrastructure needs of the county.
"We eventually came up with a plan that would cost about $5 million," he
said. "And Allconet 2 was built - a very nontraditional wireless
network. Now CONXX is managing the network for Allegany County and
builds or helps other communities build their own networks. In Allegany
County today we can say that the telecommunications problem is solved."
CONXX Inc., a Salt Lake City company that provides wireless networks and
network operating systems, announced that it would begin to introduce
residential and commercial wireless services over the Allconet 2 system
Friday. CONXX services to Allegany County will include Voice over
Internet Protocol, video and data services. The network will bring
cost-effective connection to long-distance carriers.
Federal, state and local officials marked the celebration with a
"fiber-cutting" ceremony and tour of Allconet facilities.
"This is real and it's unique. It's a complete system that can be used
for anything from paying for lunch at school to providing high-tech
police, fire and emergency services," said Todd Tanner, executive vice
president of CONXX.
"Thank you for pushing to get this completed," U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett
told Allconet developers.
"When the new north-south highway corridor is in, this area will be
really attractive for business." "Allconet 1 and 2 have been great
experiences," said Aris Melissaratos, secretary of Maryland's Department
of Business and Economic Development.
"It's a result of a seamless partnership between every level of
government," he said. "Everyone wanted broadband, but Allegany County
had the toughest job of all, due to the rough topography. But you
persevered and today you're putting together a very vibrant wireless
network - the only one of its kind in the country in a rural area like this.
"At some point in the future you'll be able to work for companies in
Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, and stay in Allegany County," said
Melissaratos. "I commend you for not hanging your heads when industry
jobs were lost, but you kept looking ahead."
"Our message to potential businesses is 'We're wireless, well-located,
and wish you were here,'" said Jim Stakem, president of the Allegany
"The opportunity for economic development is immense here, and is a
model for other communities who want what Allegany County now has," said
David Kartchner, president of CONXX.
Kartchner announced that CONXX is purchasing a building on Centre Street
so the company can have a local presence.
"We look forward to becoming a part of this community," he said.
John Scrivner wrote:
Any chance you could just give us the finer points? It is asking for
registration to read the article and I doubt all of us will be doing
Having the state and local government on your side always helps.
County wide network goes private.
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