Bluepeak has rolled out fiber to 70K locations in 2022

Bluepeak continues to advance its fiber ambitions in the central U.S., turning up and actively deploying service in more than 16 markets since the end of 2021. This year alone, the operator reached 70,000 fiber passings, and Bluepeak Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Seidenfaden told Fierce more is to come on the horizon.

To be precise, Bluepeak launched fiber markets in two South Dakota markets at the end of 2021. Thus far, it’s rolled out fiber in 14 markets in 2022, mostly in Oklahoma but also in parts of Wyoming and North Dakota. It is also planning two upcoming launches in Wyoming: Sheridan on December 30 and Laramie in March 2023.

“Eighteen markets is a lot for a short period of time,” Seidenfaden said. “Certainly there are folks whose neighbors are eager to get service as well…I’d say it’s been a phenomenal year.”

Looking ahead, Bluepeak is striving for somewhere north of 50,000 passings by the end of next year. Seidenfaden added most of those passings will be integrated into Bluepeak’s existing 18 markets, and deployment rates have already surpassed the operator’s three-year expectations.

“When we look at our original plans, it was calling for much less than what we’ve been able to accomplish in the first year,” he said, noting a lot of these markets “just made sense” to move into, proximity-wise.

“While we’re there, if we can build on over to another community that makes sense for us, then it’s something that’s on our roadmap,” Seidenfaden continued. “That was something we certainly looked at as we finalized the budget.”

As for logistics, Seidenfaden believes Bluepeak is “set up really well” in terms of managing supply chain and construction hurdles.

“[Our construction teams] have really looked to secure and allocate 8-12 months in advance, so that we know we’re going to have the materials available,” he said, adding the company is also flexible with “moving around materials as we need” from areas where construction is taking a little bit longer to other markets where the work might be completed at a faster rate.

This year was somewhat of a transformative process for Bluepeak, as the company rebranded its new and existing markets from Vast Broadband to the Bluepeak banner.

Seidenfaden thinks the rebranding has been well-received and that it’s also bolstered the company’s internal expansion. Just last month, Bluepeak hired Lumen veteran Billy Parker to serve as VP for its business and connected properties division.

“More than a name or a name change, Bluepeak I think for me has been really that philosophy of what we do. And that is bringing big city internet, if you will, to smaller communities,” he stated, echoing what he told Fierce last year about Bluepeak deliberately targeting smaller towns across the central U.S.

“We talk sometimes about Bluepeak markets, and it truly is a pride that we have that there are markets that really fit into who we are as a brand,” Seidenfaden said.

From a competitive standpoint, Bluepeak’s markets are mainly served by larger Tier 1 or Tier 2 incumbents as well as a competing DSL provider. And those networks, Seidenfaden said, “typically have some age on them.” Bluepeak also factors in fixed wireless and satellite providers into the competitive mix, along with other fiber players.

“At this point that’s a very small part of where we’ve built that we do have some other [fiber competitors] that have decided it’s a great opportunity and they’re going to come in as well,” he noted.

Seidenfaden went on to say Bluepeak expects to announce a handful of new franchise agreements starting next year. While Seidenfaden didn’t give anything away on who those partners will be, he noted those agreements generally involve working with a city or municipality to deliver Bluepeak’s fiber offering via public rights of way. Also running through that fiber is Bluepeak's IPTV streaming product.

The operator doesn’t consider TV packages its lead product, but Bluepeak does want to reel in customers who value that offering, said Seidenfaden.

“Our laser focus is really bringing the best possible internet to communities that haven’t had a choice,” he explained. “If video gives someone an opportunity to come to us that may otherwise choose not to, then we want to have that for them.”

Asked about federal funding opportunities, Seidenfaden touted that Bluepeak is predominantly privately funded, though notably it has taken federal funding in the past to build out its network in South Dakota. And this year, the operator applied for some American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to further expand into Oklahoma.

“If there are areas that don’t make the financial payback, that make sense because of a grant or any type of government funding, we would certainly look at that,” Seidenfaden said. “But our buildout is in no way reliant on securing any funding, we have all the funding to continue our buildout privately.”