UNITY — An Idaho-based company has completed its purchase of UniTel, a longstanding regional telecommunications business based in Unity, according to a joint news release issued by the two companies.

UniTel offices will remain in Unity and “all the original employees will stay in place” so that there’s no interruption in service, according to the release, which was issued last week.

Capital raised from the sale to Direct Communications will allow UniTel to upgrade and expand its broadband network in the region by focusing on extending fiber optic cables.

The two companies are similar in that they are both family-owned and focus on rural areas, KaLee Ralphs, marketing manager for Direct Communications, said Monday.

“Being able to merge with a company that has a really similar structure and values to our own, it makes us a really good fit,” Ralphs said. “Plus it comes with great employees and an awesome foothold in Maine as well.”

The purchase came about because the previous owner of UniTel, Laurie Osgood, was ready to sell the company and found a partner in Direct Communications, Ralphs said.


The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Direct Communications has its headquarters in Rockland, Idaho, in the southeastern corner of that state, and was founded in 1954.

The two companies announced in November that they were in acquisition talks.

The goal is to get fiber-to-the-home access for as many customers and residents in UniTel’s service area as possible, Ralphs said. Direct Communications has already done similar work with a company in Louisiana, she said.

About half of UniTel’s customers now have fiber optic connections, Ralphs said. Fiber is a superior technology for high-speed internet access because it has the same upload and download speeds and each home has its own connection so speeds will not slow if too many people in an area are connected at the same time.

“Fiber offers so much more value because of the symmetrical speeds and because the connections aren’t shared,” Ralphs said.


Penny Picard Sampson, a member of the Unity Board of Selectmen, said she sees the acquisition as an opportunity for the town to expand fiber optic access and serve as a possible economic driver by enticing people to move to more rural areas once fiber is available.

“I think it’s a great plan to make fiber available throughout the town,” she said.

The Unity Economic Development Committee was scheduled to meet this week with representatives from UniTel to discuss the expansion of fiber access in town, which will be funded by grants, private investment and potentially some of Unity’s tax increment financing, or TIF, money.

Karla Frederick, vice president of Maine operations at UniTel, said the 20 full-time and five part-time employees of the company are excited about the transition and planned expansion of the fiber optic network.

“We’re excited to expand our fiber reach and offer our customers higher speed packages and faster internet,” she said.

UniTel was founded in 1902 and provides telecom services to customers in the towns of Albion, Burnham, Dixmont, Knox, Newburgh, Thorndike, Troy, Unity and other surrounding areas, according to the company.

Bert Clifford become a majority owner in UniTel in 1963, when it was known as the Unity Telephone Company. He’s credited with modernizing the company and making it a successful operation in the digital age.

Clifford and his wife founded the philanthropic Unity Foundation and also helped establish Unity College, to which they gifted the Unity Centre for the Performing Arts.

Clifford died in 2001 and UniTel’s assets passed to the Unity Foundation. Osgood purchased the company in 2013 after serving as president and CEO since 2003.

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