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Ziply Fiber Takes Over Frontier Communications' Northwest Operations

Fresh off of filing for bankruptcy, Frontier no longer has a stake in the Pacific Northwest.

Edward Gately

May 4, 2020

4 Min Read
Broadband
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Frontier Communications‘ Northwest operations and assets are now Ziply Fiber. Ziply is a new company that is investing $500 million to improve its network and service.

Frontier sold the assets to WaveDivision Capital in partnership with Searchlight Capital Partners for $1.35 billion. The operations and assets are in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

Ziply Fiber is inheriting the network, which it is improving as part of its $500 million investment. It also has 500,000 customers across the four states and a workforce of nearly 1,000 employees.

Be sure to read our look back at the Frontier chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, how it unfolded and where the company goes from here.

Frontier filed chapter 11 bankruptcy last month as part of a restructuring agreement. As part of the agreement, the company promises to cut its debt by more than $10 million. With the sale complete, Frontier operates in 25 states.

Ziply Fiber is kicking off a number of projects to improve capacity and performance for its customers.

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Ziply Fiber’s Harold Zeitz

“We see significant opportunity to improve the quality of the networks for our Northwest communities. At Ziply Fiber, we are engineering a state-of-the-art, modern network that is purpose-built for the internet,” said Harold Zeitz, Ziply Fiber’s CEO. “[This] means our customers will have a better online experience than is possible with any other technology.”

Ziply Fiber is “actively working through a partner program, and considering how best to do that” for its customers.

Keep up with the latest channel-impacting mergers and acquisitions in our M&A roundup.

Broadband Question Marks

In other news, Frontier is under fire from small internet providers who question the accuracy of the provider’s broadband reporting. Frontier claims it deployed broadband to nearly 17,000 census blocks.

In a Federal Communications Commission filing, Frontier said it deployed 25/3Mbps broadband in these census blocks. Therefore, these blocks should be removed from the list of blocks where ISPs can get money for future deployment.

The FCC plans to distribute up to $16 billion to ISPs that commit to deploying broadband in census blocks without internet service of at least 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream. The funding is part of its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).

In a separate FCC filing, NTCA – the Rural Broadband Association – said many members “frequently field pleas” from consumers living in Frontier’s service area in need of access to “robust broadband service.” The NTCA represents about 850 small ISPs.

“This experience – and their decades of experience in serving sparsely populated rural areas of the nation more generally – have caused NTCA members to question whether the filing accurately reflects conditions on the ground changing so quickly in so many places in such a short time,” it said.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association are also skeptical. They said it is hard to believe Frontier was able to provide voice and 25/3 Mbps service in each of these census blocks in just eight months.

Frontier faced a looming bankruptcy during this period, making it hard to believe such a large deployment, NTCA said.

Ken Mason is Frontier’s senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs. He said Frontier’s updated broadband filing and challenge to the list of initial eligible census blocks are accurate.

“This reflects broadband coverage resulting from more than five years of Connect America Fund II (CAF II) deployments to more than 600,000 residential and business locations,” he said. “Frontier filed these census block data updates to its Form 477 before the FCC released the initial list of RDOF eligible areas. But due to the timing, Frontier’s updates were not incorporated.”

Frontier reports broadband availability if those speeds serve any portion of a census block, Mason said.

“By making this filing, Frontier will not be able to bid on these locations under RDOF and is actually guaranteed in 2022 to lose the support that we are currently receiving under CAF II to offer broadband service to these high-cost-to-serve locations,” he said.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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