The U.S. is a land of opportunity for broadband providers now that universal broadband has become a national priority and unprecedented funding has become available to cover some construction costs in unserved areas. Those opportunities also were a big factor behind mergers and acquisitions that occurred in 2022.
Telecompetitor didn’t cover every M&A deal this past year, but we covered a lot of them. In reviewing our coverage, one overriding trend becomes apparent: Private investors are getting in on the action in a big way and were involved in nearly every deal.
Broadband Mergers and Acquisitions: Private Investment
Investment firm Apollo Global Management was the acquiring company in this year’s largest deal. Apollo owns Brightspeed, which acquired operations in 20 states from Lumen Technologies.
Recognizing the importance of private investment in broadband, we’ve organized other deals involving private investment firms in alphabetical order by the name of the firm:
- Alina Capital Partners buying Consolidated’s operations in Kansas City. Consolidated gained that market when it purchased SureWest some years ago. Unlike other markets where Consolidated is deploying fiber broadband, the Kansas City market is DOCSIS based. Consolidated wants to focus on fiber broadband, a strategy that also drove the company’s decision to sell wireless assets to Verizon (see next section).
- Cable One and several investment firms own Clearwave Fiber, which bought RG Fiber.
- Cequel III buying Benton Ridge Telephone/ Watch Communications, a company that was a big winner in the Connect America Fund auction of rural broadband funding.
- EQT Partners and Digital Colony Partners own Zayo Group, which purchased Education Networks of America and QOS Networks to gain expertise in specific technologies.
- Goldman Sachs Asset Management buying ImOn Communications.
- iCON Infrastructure owns TruVista, which acquired PlantTel. iCON also said it would invest in Dobson Fiber.
- Igneo Infrastructure Partners buying US Signal.
- InstarAGF Asset Management owns business and wholesale provider LS Networks, which is acquiring residential-focused PocketiNet.
- H.R.L. Morrison & Company buying regional network provider FiberLight.
- Grain Management owns Summit Broadband, which bought NexGen Connected Communities.
- Macquarie Infrastructure Partners owns regional fiber network Bluebird, whichis buying certain fiber assets from Missouri Telecom. Macquarie also owns Altafiber, formerly Cincinnati Bell, which bought Agile Networks in 2022.
- Madison Dearborn Partners owns Fastwyre, which is buying Moundville Communications.
- Northleaf Capital Partners bought a controlling interest in Mercury Broadband, which was a big winner in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction of rural broadband funding.
- Oak Hill Capital formed Omni Fiber in 2022 with plans to deploy fiber in the Midwest and subsequently bought Ohio Fiber to fuel those plans.
- Post Road Group owns Archtop Fiber, which is acquiring 95-year-old local provider GTEL.
- TPG Capital owns Astound Broadband, which bought FastMesh Internet.
- Vanguard Group, which owns Cogent, said Cogent would acquire T-Mobile’s wireline business.
- WaveDivision Capital owns Ziply, which acquired Frontier operations in the Northwest several years ago. In 2022, Ziply said it would acquire iFiber from several utility companies and also announced plans to purchase Eastern Oregon Net.
M&A That Didn’t Involve Private Investors
The list of broadband mergers and acquisitions that didn’t involve private investment is considerably shorter. It included:
- Local provider Amherst Communications bought another local provider Union Telephone.
- Local provider Nex-Tech acquiring another local provider Moundridge Communications.
- VisionNet, owned by several local Montana providers, acquired data centers through its iConnect Montana purchase.
- CommNet, owned by publicly traded ATN International, purchasing tribal-focused provider Sacred Wind.
- Consolidated selling its wireless business to Verizon to better focus on fiber.
- Competitive provider Metronet merged with Vexus Fiber.
- Nextlink, which was a big winner in the RDOF auction, bought CCAOnline.