TTA Member Profile: United Communications

President, CEO: William Bradford
Year established: 1954
Number of access lines: 12,000
Number of employees: 54

Like many communications companies in rural Tennessee, United Communications is working hard to expand its fiber network at a time when state lawmakers have pledged additional support for rural broadband.

That’s one reason William Bradford, president and chief executive officer at United, is excited to serve this year as president of the Tennessee Telecommunications Association.

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act approved this year is key to success for fiber upgrades. Along with Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget, the legislation will provide $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to assist in making broadband available to unserved homes and businesses.

“Many of our rural areas have been ignored for far too long,” Bradford says.

TTA plays a vital role in making sure its members and member customers know the benefits of fiber. “I’m really excited to get to help represent the TTA and meet the goals of deploying fiber to rural Tennessee,” Bradford says.

A network for the future

United Communications, established in 1954, was one of the first companies in Tennessee to introduce a fiber-to-the-home network. United serves portions of  Williamson, Marshall and Bedford counties, as well as the communities of Nolensville, Chapel Hill and College Grove.

United’s focus is the Middle Tennessee Connectivity Initiative, the company’s fiber campaign aimed at giving customers the ability to help determine when and where United will expand fiber-to-the-home services.

United plans to work with local community and business leaders to develop a strategic plan for broadband in underserved areas of Middle Tennessee and target specific areas based on response from customers.

“We’re turning traditional methods upside down,” he says. “We’re just trying to give customers the power to determine where we build next.”
United has invested more than $90 million in their Middle Tennessee network and deployed fiber services to more than 6,000 locations across their Middle Tennessee service area. As a result, they can deliver high-speed internet with speeds up to 1 gigabit.

The idea behind the initiative is to expand broadband to underserved areas. “It’s moving so fast it’s hard to keep up” says Missy Michaels, director of marketing at United Communications.

She says about 30 percent of United’s ILEC customers have fiber. For customers served by an existing copper-based network, the goal is to provide 25 Mbps service.

With its newly-formed CLEC, United can expand in other areas, with an emphasis on key institutions and businesses. Fiber was recently added at Henry Horton State Park, and that is crucial to the town of Chapel Hill. “We footed part of the bill to get fiber to the state park,” Michaels says.
United will build the fiber based on demand. “We will go work first in the areas where customers tell us they want it,” she says. “Before, we were limited to ILEC. Now with CLEC, the sky’s the limit. It’s allowed us to expand our fiber deployment.”

United’s goal for the campaign is to identify the broadband needs of residents and businesses across the mid-state area. Residents and business owners can preregister and express interest in United’s fiber service. A name, address and product or service selection is needed to register at united.net or call 1-800-779-2227.

“We are extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish to bring fiber internet and faster speeds over the last few years,” Bradford says. “We believe this new fiber campaign is going to be a game-changer for future fiber deployment in our service area.”