Fulton Telephone Company readies for launch of new Internet television service

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Fulton Telephone Company is in the final stages of preparing a new internet-based television service, which they plan to offer to the public in the coming few months.

Called FTC-TV, the service will utilize a relatively new technology called Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). Whereas cable television transmits its signal through underground cables and satellite does the same through signals bounced off of satellites in space, IPTV sends television through a broadband signal, just like the internet.

Communications companies like AT&T have recently begun offering similar IPTV services. Fulton Telephone Company began working on its own service last year and is currently in the testing phase.

Company officials said that final packaging pricing and channel selection are still being determined, but should be competitive with similar services throughout the area.

“We are preparing to roll this out in the near future,” said Rick Bennett, Manager of Business Development for the Fulton Telephone Company, adding that there are a lot of wrinkles to iron out before the service is made widely available.

“Before we roll out with this, we need to make ure that it works all the time and that everybody can get it,” he said. “We want every one of our customers to have a seamless experience … It’s just not quite ready for public consumption, yet.”

Once available, the service will work similarly to the company’s broadband service. Customers will have the option to bundle a television subscription — which will feature several packages at varying price ranges — with their pre-existing landline or internet services. Those who don’t already have one of those services can, of course, join at a slightly higher price.

Although the technology for delivering television signal via the internet has been in existence for some time, bandwidth limitations made the streaming service impractical. But as technologies began to improve, the option became more and more viable.

Think of fiber optics cables like water pipes; like water, only so much information can travel down the line at any given time. The wider the line, the more information that can travel back and forth.

Bennett said those lines, and consequently the amount of information they can carry, have been steadily increasing over the years. As DSL speeds improve, so to do the kinds of services communications companies like FTC can offer.

“This kind of technology just keeps opening up and opening up,” he said. “Finally, we feel that it’s opened up enough that we can justify the initial investment in the technology needed to bring this service to our customers.”

Bennett said the service should be available to most, if not all, of FTC’s customers.

Services like IPTV exemplify the expanding roles of communications companies like FTC. As the number of U.S. landlines begin to dwindle due to increased cellular phone usage, communications companies have had to find new ways to stay relevant.

Despite the changing landscape, Bennett said FTC continues to do well. The company’s DSL penetration is high — approximately 60 percent of its more than 6,000 customers subscribe to its DSL service.

“There are a lot of telephone companies that have been nothing but doom and gloom, but Fulton Telephone is doing really well,” Bennett said.

He believes the addition of IPTV will only strengthen the company’s standing.

“We feel like we’re in great condition moving forward,” he said. “

adam.armour@journalinc.com