In this week’s issue, we’re tracking AT&T lighting Fiber for Georgia’s Covington Town Center and Antin wrapping its Acquisition of Empire Access, North Penn. During the past two weeks, two key themes emerged: providers securing their own funding or from a state and regional FTTH providers making acquisitions.
AT&T Fiber Gives Covington Town Center Residents and Businesses a Broadband Look
AT&T Connected Communities, Mixed-Use, was selected by the Foxfield Company to provide its AT&T Fiber service across its 180-acre Covington Town Center development. The telco will deliver up to 5 Gbps at symmetrical speeds to consumers and small businesses. AT&T Fiber will also serve a variety of enterprises onsite with scalable services and security solutions. All residents will be eligible to receive the fastest internet in the U.S.1, right here at Covington Town Center, thanks to AT&T Fiber. Speeds begin at 300Mbps and can reach up to 5 Gbps for consumers and small businesses, while enterprise customers can order dedicated internet speeds up to 1Tbps, where available.
ImOn Communications Snaps Up FiberComm
ImOn Communications, an Eastern Iowa-based fiber broadband services provider, has agreed to acquire FiberComm, reflecting an ongoing consolidation trend of regional fiber operators. FiberComm has been providing Internet and voice services to businesses in the Sioux City market for over 20 years. ImOn was founded in 2007 as a single-market cable provider and has transformed into a regional fiber-to-the-premise platform that owns and operates a 2,000+ mile network that reaches over 77,000 households and businesses. ImOn said that it remains committed to completing its network expansion to all homes and businesses in Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Iowa City, Coralville and Dubuque. The acquisition of FiberComm will be ImOn’s first expansion of its service footprint outside of Eastern Iowa. After meeting pending regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close in 2023 and is subject to obtaining customary regulatory approvals. Charlesmead Advisors served as Exclusive Advisor to FiberComm on the transaction. Shuttleworth & Ingersoll and Morgan Lewis & Bockius advised ImOn.
ARC Doles Out $6.3M to Enhance Broadband in 50 Appalachia-Based Communities
Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded $6.3 million through its Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE) funding opportunity to Connect Humanity for a project that will help 50 underserved communities in every subregion of Appalachia plan for broadband access and growth. Through its partnership with entities in 12 Appalachian states—Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia— Connect Humanity will help communities develop tailored digital equity plans designed to deliver appropriate technology, business, and financing plans necessary to ensure affordable high-speed and affordable internet services.â€¯The growing list of project partners includes:
- Center on Rural Innovation
- Empire State Development
- Enterprise Center
- Fair Count
- Generation WV
- Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits & Philanthropy
- NC State University Institute for Emerging Issues
- SOAR – Shaping Our Appalachian Region
- Student Freedom Initiative
- Center for Strategic Partnerships at the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development
- Virginia Funders Network
While the project will still help the 50 under-connected communities across Appalachia compete for a piece of the $45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity Act (DEA) funding that will become available later in 2023, communities will also benefit from the technical assistance provided as part of the project to put them on a path to digital equity.
Rigstar Industrial Telecom Awarded Clearwater County Broadband Operations Contract
Alberta, Canada Clearwater County has awarded the broadband network operations contract to Rigstar Industrial Telecom, which will operate and manage Clearwater County’s recently completed fiber network. Rigstar is tasked with optimizing the delivery of broadband services for the municipality of Clearwater County, its residents, and businesses. Rigstar will also facilitate the onboarding and management of any Internet Service Providers that qualify to participate in the open-access network. This contract highlights a significant achievement in Clearwater County’s backbone core infrastructure project that will enable telecommunication providers to bridge the digital divide within the community.
Tennessee’s Project UNITE Secures $53.5M in State Funding
Project UNITE, a middle-mile provider in Tennessee formed by a coalition of broadband providers, has been awarded $53.5 million in state broadband funding. Spearheaded by United Communications, the project aims to make broadband—fiber or wireless—available to over 14,000 underserved locations in Middle Tennessee. Other participating providers in Project UNITE include Middle Tennessee Electric and Duck River Electric. United Communications is supplementing the grant funding with $14 million from United Communications and more than $10 million committed by county governments for a total infrastructure investment of over $77 million. These latest state grants complement United Communications’ plans to expand its network of over 1,700 route miles of fiber backbone to supply broadband internet, digital TV, and phone service to residential customers and businesses across Middle Tennessee. According to recent census data, rural Tennesseans are ten times more likely than their neighbors in urban areas to need access to fast, reliable internet connections.
Angel Foundation, WeLink Bring Free Wireless Internet to East Los Angeles/Boyle Heights
Hundreds of residents living in the 414 apartments at the Estrada Courts housing association will now have improved access to free broadband internet service. This project is part of a new multi-sector partnership involving the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), WeLink, and the i.am/Angel Foundation. Additionally, WeLink has installed free internet service at the Boys & Girls Clubhouse within Estrada Courts. Microsoft’s Airband Initiative will provide digital literacy, skills training offerings, and access to affordable computing devices to help residents make the most of their new internet service. As part of will.i.am’s i.am/Angel Foundation, which has been investing in Boyle Heights since 2009 to improve educational opportunities and services, WeLink’s wireless broadband internet service is a critical infrastructure improvement that will support residents at Estrada Courts with internet service.
Kinetic Awarded $35M to Bring Fiber Broadband to Four Georgia Counties
Kinetic by Windstream has been awarded nearly $35 million in grants to build out fiber to more than 4,500 homes and businesses in Georgia’s Clay, Clinch, Randolph and Schley counties. Gov. Brian Kemp announced the grants through the Capital Projects Fund Grant Program to use federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. The announcement comes about a year after Kemp and members of the Broadband Infrastructure Committee announced that $171 million in grants from American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to 18 counties in partnership with Kinetic to bring fiber to those communities in Georgia.
Communities covered by this round of grants:
- Clay County: 1,216 locations
- Clinch County: 1,665 locations
- Randolph County – 1,116 locations
- Schley County – 512 locations
Engineering is underway for the projects, and residents can expect to see crews working in these areas soon, with a completion date by the end of 2026, the grant deadline.
Lumos Dedicates $100M to Expand South Carolina Fiber Internet Reach
Lumos has hatched a plan to bring FTTH services to South Carolina’s Richland and Lexington Counties. The expansion will blanket the region with nearly 1,200 miles of the latest fiber optic technology, with a capital investment of more than $100 million and the first investment from the company in the South Carolina region. Lumos said that the new expansion would help provide fiber Internet to underserved areas, creating economic advantages that will serve the Columbia communities for decades. Customers will be able to access 5 Gbps at symmetrical speeds. With this new expansion, Lumos will reach underserved portions of Columbia, Forest Acres and Arcadia Lakes in Richland County, as well as West Columbia, Lexington, Cayce, Irmo and Springdale in Lexington County. Engineering work by Lumos will begin in mid-2023, with construction starting shortly after – residents will receive communication by mail when this begins.
Bluebird Network Launches Services in Five Illinois Markets
Bluebird Network has completed the build-out of its 126-fiber-route-mile network build in Illinois. The network route will connect Aurora, Dixon, DeKalb, Sterling and Rock Falls to Bluebird’s Midwest fiber footprint bringing the company’s dedicated fiber internet, data center solutions, and cloud connectivity services to new customers. The build also provides a diverse route to Chicago, bolstering the resiliency of Bluebird’s fiber network. Michael Morey, president and CEO of Bluebird Network, said the latest body brings it closer to “having a fiber presence in 80 percent of communities across our 11-state footprint with reach to a population greater than 10,000 people.” The new route to Chicago also allows Bluebird to offer its data center solutions to more customers in America’s third-largest metro region while providing existing customers the ability to connect to crucial telecom hubs. Hot off the heels of a company acquisition, adding fiber assets in Southern Missouri and two builds expanding their network into Salina, Kansas and Waterloo, Iowa, the past few months have been busy for Bluebird. Between the projects listed above and ongoing day-to-day fiber construction, Bluebird will have made nearly 290 miles of new owned fiber, connected 441 new on-net buildings, and installed 1,386 additional access points in the past year.
MetroNet Lights Up Fiber for Waterloo, Iowa Residents, Businesses
Metronet is bringing its multi-gigabit speeds to Waterloo, Iowa, with service installation available in initial construction areas. As Metronet service becomes available throughout the Waterloo area, residents will have the opportunity to power up with multi-gigabit speeds up to 2 gigabits; businesses may access rates up to 10 gigabits. As Metronet continues construction throughout Waterloo, residents in construction areas will receive 30 days advance notice by mail about construction activity in their neighborhood. Metronet provides additional messaging, such as yard signs, to notify residents when construction is beginning in their area. ID tags and branded vehicles mark Metronet crews.
Antin Wraps Acquisition of Empire Access, North Penn to Create New FTTH Player
Antin Infrastructure Partners has completed the Empire Access and North Penn Telephone acquisitions, giving birth to a new fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) player serving Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania. This is the latest in several new investments in the regional FTTP provider market segment. Empire’s network consists of 1,280 fiber route miles servicing over 96,000 addresses and 29,000 customers in Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania. The provider said in a release that it plans to expand its high-speed fiber broadband footprint across the region. In 2021, Empire was rated as the “Fastest ISP in the U.S.” by PC Mag. The Wagner family, which has controlled Empire since 1946, retained an ownership stake in the company and Brian Wagner will remain on the company’s board of directors. Financial terms were not disclosed. Jim Baase, CEO at Empire, said the “Empire-Antin partnership will enable us to grow more quickly.”
IdeaTek Extends Fiber Footprint to Colwich, Kansas
IdeaTek expanded its fiber footprint into Colwich, giving businesses and households access to gigabit speeds. The expansion furthers the company’s mission of providing Internet Freedom to Kansas communities. In January, IdeaTek deployed wireless internet to the city and surrounding residences as a temporary solution for remote areas. With this rollout, IdeaTek will offer unlimited, uncapped, symmetrical speeds of up to 2 Gbps. IdeaTek also does not require contracts. To date, IdeaTek has deployed more than 4,000 miles of fiber — plus built more than 100 fixed wireless towers — serving customers in more than 70 Kansas communities.