Breezeline crosses halfway mark with West Virginia fiber build

Breezeline revealed it is nearly 60% finished with a project designed to add 42,000 fiber passings in the U.S. state of West Virginia, adding it plans to complete the build within the next 12 months. The work is part of the operator’s broader expansion plan for 2023.

Since construction began last year, Breezeline said it has added 25,000 new passings in Monongalia County. Construction has been completed in the towns of Brookhaven, Cheat Lake and Morgantown. The operator plans to turn its attention to Westover, Star City and Granville next, as it works to complete the remaining 17,000 passings that are part of its plan.

It’s not the only one targeting West Virginia. In February, Frontier Communications announced it would build 100,000 new passings in the state in calendar 2023, adding to the 125,000 it already has there. That expansion will supplement grant-fueled builds to just under 3,000 locations in Mason and Boone Counties there.

Shenandoah Telecommunications (Shentel) also operates in West Virginia. While it serves most of its customers there with cable, it launched its Glo Fiber service in Martinsburg and Jefferson County in the northeast corner of the state.

Expansion plan

Breezeline operates a network across 12 states which includes both fiber and HFC. It added around 70,000 passings in its fiscal 2022 to end the year with just under 1.68 million homes passed and around 708,000 internet customers.

For fiscal 2023, the operator has said it is looking to step up its pace of expansion, aiming to increase its passings by about 5%. That would factor out to around 84,000 new passings based on its total as of end-2022. Aside from its fiber work in West Virginia, Breezeline has also emphasized plans to expand its fiber footprint in New Hampshire.

A Breezeline representative told Fierce it has extended its fiber network to nearly 35,000 passings in New Hampshire since work began in fiscal 2022, including in the towns of Somersworth, Durham, Dover, Concord and Madbury.

The company’s fiscal year 2023 began September 1, 2022. Breezeline already added 17,000 passings in the U.S. during its fiscal Q1 2023, which ended November 30. It is expected to report FQ2 results in mid-April.

Since the end of FQ1, Breezeline has announced the completion of a grant-funded build to more than 1,400 locations in Virginia. That project kicked off in March 2022.

In July 2022, Breezeline won nearly $3.7 million in fresh funding for broadband expansion projects in three Maryland counties. The operator representative said walkout and construction on those builds have already begun. It also applied for more funding covering two counties in Virginia, but the state has yet to make its 2023 grant awards. The representative said it is als eyeing funding opportunities related to the government's $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program.

"We are continuously building out our network where it is opportune and we consistently partner with local counties and municipalities. These along with federal funding opportunities will allow us to extend service even further in the years ahead," the representative stated.

M&A prospects

Last year, Breezeline closed on a deal to acquire WideOpenWest’s (WOW!) broadband assets in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Though it got off to a rocky start and lost customers there due to systems integration issues, Cogeco CEO Philippe Jette said during an investor conference in March those problems have been resolved and it still believes there is plenty of growth potential in both markets. Cogeco is Breezeline’s parent company.

According to Jette, customers in its new Ohio markets are concentrated on 200 Mbps and 400 Mbps speed tiers. Given it provides a 1-gig offering, he said that means there’s plenty of room to grow ARPU by stepping customers up the ladder. It is also aggressively marketing its services to capture new customers.

Asked whether additional mergers and acquisitions are in its future, Jette said Cogeco is being cautious given the uncertain economic environment, but added he still thinks there’s room for Breezeline to consolidate smaller cable companies.

Such deals could “move our needle” in a way that they might not for larger operators, he said.


4/7/2023 2:04 PM ET: This story has been updated with comments from a Breezeline representative.