Frontier plans to sell assets in three states – Minnesota is not one of them

Frontier announces plans to sell assets

Frontier Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: FTR) today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its operations and all associated assets in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana to WaveDivision Capital, LLC (WDC) in partnership with Searchlight Capital Partners, LLC (Searchlight) for $1.352 billion in cash subject to certain closing adjustments.

Frontier’s operations in these states serve more than 350,000 residential and commercial customers as of March 31, 2019 and account for $619 million of revenue, $46 million of net income and $272 million of Adjusted EBITDA1 for the twelve months ending March 31, 2019. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, with closing anticipated to occur within one year.

“The sale of these properties reduces Frontier’s debt and strengthens liquidity,” said Dan McCarthy, Frontier President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are pleased to have a buyer with extensive experience building and operating advanced fiber-based communications assets in these regions. We will be working very closely with the new owners to ensure a smooth, successful transition for our customers and the communities we serve.”

WDC, headed by broadband entrepreneur Steve Weed, is based in Kirkland, Washington, and brings extensive technical, organizational, and management experience in building and operating residential and business next-generation fiber networks.

“We are excited to be partnering with Searchlight on this opportunity to acquire Frontier’s operations in the Northwest,” said Steve Weed, CEO of WDC, and Founder and former CEO of Wave Broadband. “We have a proven track record of customer satisfaction by providing fast, reliable internet connectivity combined with great service and support. Having grown up in the Northwest, I’m excited to be able to continue to serve my community through this new venture.”

“Searchlight is pleased to have reached this agreement with Frontier,” said Eric Zinterhofer, Founding Partner of Searchlight. “We are excited to partner with Steve and his team, who have an outstanding track record of building best-in-class fiber networks, and who will enable us to accelerate the deployment of superior next generation products for our residential and business customers.”

I wonder what this means to customers in Minnesota. Frontier has had a rough year here in MN with some pretty brutal public testimony on their service and Senators asking the FCC for further investigation. It would be great to think that some of the funds raised would be used to invest in the current network but what it clearly says above is…

sale of these properties reduces Frontier’s debt and strengthens liquidity.


CTC starts building better broadband to parts of Todd County

Brainerd Dispatch reports…

CTC recently hosted a groundbreaking event at 11 a.m. Monday, May 20, in Browerville. CTC was the only telecommunications company in Minnesota in 2018 to be awarded the Community Connect grant bringing broadband services to rural Minnesota.

CTC also rebranded to its initials instead of using the Consolidated Telecommunications or Telephone Co. name.

CTC reports this project will bring much-needed broadband services to the communities of Fawn Lake, Philbrook, and Moran townships, as well as some surrounding areas. Construction for this fiber-to-the-home project is expected to begin soon and continue through fall 2019.

The project is being funded by a $2.1 million grant through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Connect program.

T-Mobile has 18% discount for nonprofit orgs to serve their clients

I just heard that T-Mobile has opened up its contracts with states and the federal GSA to nonprofits. This means you have access to an 18% discount on service. If you pay T-Mobile directly you can use this discount to provide service to the folks you serve. They do not have a system for the folks you serve to pay T-Mobile directly.

This could be a way to offer hotspots to library patrons or to families you serve that don’t have access at home. (Get pricing. And check coverage areas before you get into any contracts!)

Other providers may have similar service – and if they do I’d be happy to post it here too. (Just send me info or post a comment below.)

Squeaky wheel sometimes gets better broadband in Douglas County

Echo Press reports on some successful and not-so-successful attempts to get broadband providers to expand service in and around Douglas County. Starting with success…

Last year, [local resident Dick] Quitmeyer pitched in on a neighborhood effort to bring Runestone Telecom Association’s high-speed fiber optic to the shores of Lake Andrew. As vice president of the Lake Andrew Lake Association, he convinced more than 30 of his neighbors to sign a petition asking the cooperative to bring fiber to their doors.

Competition for prime internet service in Douglas County is at the street level these days, as neighborhoods around Douglas County are organizing to bring high-speed service to their homes and home-based businesses. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s a tactic encouraged by the local telecommunications cooperatives as well as state officials.

Interesting to learn what it meant to Quitmeyer…

he says slow internet speeds bog down his online stock trades enough to cost him up to 30 percent in potential revenue.

Another story of success…

In response to demand from neighborhoods, the rural telecommunications groups are pushing beyond their traditional boundaries to extend premium internet access to nearby communities, especially when internet giants like CenturyLink turn down local requests.

When a handful of organizers knocked on doors near Holmes City, they gathered about 200 households that wanted service, and Runestone agreed to deliver. It won a Border to Border grant and now provides high-speed internet there as well as to Blackwell Lake, both within CenturyLink’s service area.

And a story of the not-to-successful…

At least one neighborhood in Douglas County, the Bluffs Road NW loop near Lake Carlos, has met with defeat time and again after trying to convince CenturyLink to upgrade their internet service, two neighbors said.

Kevin Rankl, an applications engineer who works from home, said every few months, neighbors along their loop call the Louisiana-based company to ask for better service.

Rochelle Telander, who lives down the road from Rankl, said that when her son streams Netflix, nobody can do anything else online. Plus, when their internet access goes down, their TVs don’t work either, she said. She last called CenturyLink about four months ago, she said.

“They tell us this is the best we can get,” Telander said. “Nobody has really gotten anywhere. We’d all like better access because it’s really stinky out here.”

CenturyLink confirmed to the Echo Press that while it has brought more than 60,000 Minnesota households online since 2016, including some locally, it has no immediate plans to expand in Douglas County.

And a suggestion for anyone who has not been successful…

Neighborhoods whose internet providers say no to future upgrades need to change tactics, said Danna MacKenzie, executive director of Minnesota’s Office of Broadband Development. They might have better success contacting her office instead. In the past, the state has connected nearby providers with neighborhoods, she said.

MacKenzie said the state’s Border to Border program is designed to be responsive to those who ask for service.

Rural and Urban Broadband are different and 5G isn’t a panacea for both

Doug Dawson take on the most popular question of the last few years (again!) – will 5G bring ubiquitous broadband to rural areas. And the answer again is – no. I’m a little tempted to just leave my comments as that and link readers directly to Doug – but I’ll try to pull out some very high level points…

There are a few hot-button topics that are the current favorite talking points at the FCC. T-Mobile and Sprint are pressing both the 5G and the rural broadband buttons with their merger request. The companies are claiming that if they are allowed to merge that they can cover 96% of America with a ‘deep, broad, and nationwide’ 5G network.

There are multiple technologies being referred to as 5G – wireless broadband loops and 5G cellular – and their claim doesn’t hold water for either application.

Doug goes on to explain the multiple technologies. And if you want/need to know the differences, I think he makes it pretty easy to understand. If you don’t want or need to know – you can skip right to his conclusion…

The T-Mobile and Sprint claim is pure bosh. These companies are not going to be investing in fiber to bring 5G wireless loops to rural America. While a combined company will have more spectrum than the other carriers there is no immediate advantage for using 5G for rural cellular coverage . The T-Mobile and Sprint announcements are just pushing the 5G and the rural broadband hot-buttons because the topics resonate well with politicians who don’t understand the technology.

CTC to extend fiber to reach man in Crow Wing County

Last month I wrote about Steve Riley in Crow Wing County, who was frustrated with his broadband service. His wife teleworks, they couldn’t get anything faster than 5-9 Mbps and their provider wasn’t interested in upgrading them.

Turns out CTC was. Joe Buttweiler from CTC saw Steve’s story, which included a map of the area. CTC was already working with some small businesses in the area and Steve’s home wasn’t too far off the planned construction. SO they got together and it sounds like the Riley’s will have better service soon.

MN Broadband provider asks Governor to Think Big with Broadband via Center for Rural Policy & Dev

The Center for Rural Policy and Development curated letters to the new governor from experts in different areas from around Minnesota – including a letter from Gary Johnson and Brian Bissonette from Paul Bunyan Communications in Bemidji.

If you have someone on your team or a leader in your community that needs to better understand the why and how or broadband – share this with them! They have incorporated some easy instruction on the difference between copper, wireless and fiber – and a little telecom history.

At the end they give some recommendations – to approach broadband policy with an eye toward abundance, not scarcity…

If you think about your Internet experience, whether it’s those early dial-up days or that rat’s nest of dusty cables behind your desktop computer or your Wi-Fi connection today, your Internet service provider has always been the throttle or choke point in your experience.

It’s only recently with gigabit speeds that Paul Bunyan Communications as a provider is no longer the bottleneck. Unless you have fairly new equipment, it’s very likely a gigabit Internet connection will be faster than your computer’s networking capabilities, your Wi-Fi can transmit, or that distant website can send the data back to you.

That’s how it should be.

Paul Bunyan Cooperative’s philosophy has been that customers should make the decision on what they need, what they can do, or what’s fast enough. Instead of being the gatekeepers, providers should strive to be the enablers of whatever can be dreamt up today or in the future.

Yet today, policy makers and ISPs alike still are deciding what speed is good enough, often setting the bar low for economic reasons and trying to use the existing—often copper wire—infrastructure or slow wireless technologies as a short-term solution.

Funding spent on existing aging infrastructure and old technology like copper results in no real progress in Internet speeds and capabilities and is a wasted opportunity to build for the future.

Our investments in infrastructure should be for the future, not on decades-old technologies. Our expectations for speed should be lofty, not what just gets us by for now. That means fiber optic networks delivering gigabit speeds and beyond.

We can do this today if there is the will. The dollars are there if we invest them in the right way, on the right technologies, and for the right reasons.

Let’s not just get by. Let’s think big. Let’s do what is possible, so that we enable those who follow to dream of what’s next.