Consolidated Communications announced a major fiber network expansion that will add 300K new gigabit capable locations. This Consolidated fiber expansion is funded in part by the recently concluded $9B RDOF auction.
Consolidated won close to $59 million to bring broadband to 27K locations across 7 states. That funding will help accelerate the Consolidated fiber strategy, which aims to reach an additional 300K locations in 2021 alone.
Consolidated estimates that it can build to 150K locations that are in close proximity to the RDOF funded locations. This Consolidated fiber strategy tied to RDOF is illustrative of a potential RDOF “halo” effect, where adjacent rural territory to RDOF funded locations could gain better broadband access.
Eventually, this Consolidated fiber strategy will have the regional broadband carrier reaching 1.6 million locations with gigabit-capable fiber broadband, the carrier announced. Consolidated recently brought on a strategic investor in Searchlight Capital Partners to help fund this ‘future proof’ network strategy.
The Searchlight investment allowed Consolidated to refinance and recapitalize its balance sheet, creating a $250 million untapped revolver with approximately $100 million in cash at the end of the third quarter, according to Consolidated.
“The work we did with CAF II funding and our history of extending our fiber deep into the markets we serve positions us very well to accelerate our fiber build at a cost-effective rate per passing,” said Bob Udell, president and chief executive officer at Consolidated Communications in a press release. “As a result of our ongoing asset review and the RDOF auction, we will build to an additional 150,000 near-net passings in areas without RDOF funding but have attractive returns due to the proximity of our resources and fiber network. We will offer a highly competitive, symmetrical multi-gigabit service with superior technology and a best-in-class customer experience.”
Consolidated has operations in 23 states, with much of it concentrated in the Northeast. Of the 1.6 million total fiber upgrades Consolidated aims to complete over the five years, 1 million will be in its Northern New England markets.