Company builds, gives away infrastructure in exchange for service agreements

Tech Laboratories Inc. (North Haledon, NJ) is targeting multi-tenant buildings, residential developments, and small businesses with a plan to build and give away a cabling infrastructure

Tech Laboratories Inc. (North Haledon, NJ) is targeting multi-tenant buildings, residential developments, and small businesses with a plan to build and give away a cabling infrastructure, in hopes that building occupants will sign service agreements. The system is called Tech Laboratories Community Net-work (TLCN), and it includes data, voice, and video services.

The company's goal is to get users to rely on one source-Tech Laborato-ries-for their telephone, Internet, and cable or satellite television needs. According to Bernard Ciongoli, president of Tech Laboratories, the service offering can also include alarm and heating/ventilation systems, closed-circuit TV, and videoconferencing. He adds that the service "gives developers and building owners a simple, turnkey solution. The whole idea is for the customer to get one bill."

To market the system, the company will install the network for free at the site of a condominium complex, apartment, planned single-family development, or office park. In return, the real estate developer agrees to share a percentage of the revenues earned from the monthly connectivity fees that end users pay. Information provided by Tech Laboratories states that basic connectivity services start at $49 monthly, and premium services cost $150 per month.

Ciongoli says that developers have reacted positively to the fact that this setup provides "an additional revenue stream by selling broadband services to tenants without having to bear the expense of building the infrastructure.

"Once they [developers] realize that they do not have to worry about the infrastructure, they warm up to the idea. They are immediately or quickly interested," he adds. Currently, Tech Laboratories is installing the TLCN system in four Florida communities, with a total of approximately 1,200 subscribers.

"Our mission is to get into joint ventures with utility companies," Ciongoli says, "such as water and gas companies. They have rights-of-way that can greatly assist in the deployment of the system's fiber-optic backbone."

At the same time this program rolls out, the company is also introducing Tech Labs Connect (TLC), an inside cabling system intended for residential and small-commercial environments. Tech Labs offers six versions of TLC, four of them without and two of them with local area network (LAN) connections. The most basic offering provides five telephone, three television, and one data connection; the most advanced provides 29 telephone, eight television, three data, and five LAN connections.

Ciongoli believes he's getting into the residential cabling market while it is on a steep upward growth curve. "We say that we're providing the on-ramp to the information superhighway," he says, adding that "1% or less of homes are wired with Category 5 cable."

Tech Labs is targeting retrofit applications as well as new construction sites with its new initiative. The system "also makes vacant office space more attractive and valuable," Ciongoli concludes.

In addition to TLC and TLCN, Tech Labs offers the DynaTrax system, a remote-site management system. Tech Labs purchased the DynaTrax name, product line, and technology from NORDX/CDT (Pointe-Claire, QC, Canada) last year.

FCC acts on building access

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Coinciding with Tech Labs' new venture, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently took some action that it says will continue to foster competition in local communications markets. Specifically, the FCC "implemented measures to enhance the ability of competing telecommunications providers to provide services to customers in residential and commercial buildings or other multiple-tenant environments (MTEs)," the commission said in a recent statement.

The FCC statement further said that measures already adopted may be insufficient to secure a full measure of choice for businesses and individuals located in MTEs. The FCC will monitor the progress of a real-estate industry coalition and, if necessary, "consider taking additional action, including adopting rules to ensure that competing telecommunications service providers receive access to MTE premises."

Actions that the FCC did take in October include forbidding telecommunications carriers in commercial settings from entering into exclusive contracts with building owners, including contracts that restrict owners from permitting access to other service providers. The commission also established procedures to facilitate moving a facility's demarcation point to the minimum point of entry (MPOE) at the building owner's request, and required incumbent local exchange carriers (LECs) to disclose, in a timely manner, the location of existing demarcation points where they are not located next to the MPOE. Before this action by the FCC, law allowed the demarcation to be located either at the MPOE or further inside the premises.

One other FCC action in October included determining that utilities, including LECs, must provide "reasonable and nondiscriminatory access to conduits and rights-of-way located in customer buildings and campuses" to telecommunications carriers and cable-service providers. More information on this action and other proposed actions by the FCC are available at the commission's Web site, www.fcc.gov.

-Patrick McLaughlin

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