Breezeline finishes $80M fiber expansion in West Virginia and New Hampshire

Breezeline notched two achievements in its fiber expansion drive, closing out construction projects in both West Virginia and New Hampshire. Together, the two projects total over $80 million of investment and more than 800 miles of new fiber.

Construction for both multi-year projects began in late 2021. Breezeline began activating customers as portions of construction were completed, starting in early 2022 in New Hampshire and summer of 2022 in West Virginia. Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) internet, TV and phone services are now available to all residential and businesses in the public rights of way across those completed footprints.

The company’s $42 million, 283-mile fiber expansion in West Virginia will bring fiber internet to some 40,000 homes and businesses in the state’s Morgantown area, which includes the Star City, Westover, Granville, Cheat Lake and Brookhaven communities in Monongalia County.

By April 2023, Breezeline was already 60% done with the West Virgina project, having added 25,000 passings in Monongalia County. 

The successful construction phase of its fiber expansion initiative in Somersworth, Madbury, Dover, Durham and Concord, New Hampshire was also announced this week. Breezeline has invested more than $40 million in that 525-mile fiber network, which now reaches more than 45,000 homes and businesses in the five communities.

In April, Breezeline had already extended its fiber network to nearly 35,000 passings in New Hampshire.

Both fiber builds were backed by a fully private investment from Breezeline, spokesperson Andrew Walton noted. He told Fierce Telecom that DSL, as well as incumbent internet providers were present in the two markets when Breezeline decided to expand its infrastructure. In New Hampshire, for example, some of its network is sharing space with existing fiber provider Consolidated Communications, in addition to cable incumbents.

But Breezeline’s fiber internet is all fiber to the home (or business), providing symmetrical speeds, which Walton claimed is “a new option for many customers in these footprints.”

Breezeline looks ahead to RDOF, VATI builds

Breezeline operates a network across 12 states which includes both fiber and HFC. Heading into 2024, Walton said the provider’s focus will be on achieving customer growth within the West Virginia and New Hampshire markets where it has completed fiber builds. 

“At the same time, we expect to continue to pursue strategic expansion initiatives,” he added, pointing to its market in Salisbury, Massachusetts where Breezeline is currently activating customers.

Breezeline will also work to continue private/public partnerships, including a project to extend its fiber network to over 1,200 unserved homes and businesses in King William County, Virginia starting this year. The multi-year build is being jointly funded by Breezeline and a $1.5 million subsidy from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

CCG Consulting’s Doug Dawson in a note this month said the FCC is “getting serious” about RDOF defaults, as it could be disruptive if providers back out of their commitments after the BEAD grant process is underway.

In 2022, 73 auction participants were fined by the FCC for defaulting on winning RDOF bids. Breezeline was hit with a fine of just over $3,000 at the time, but Walton said the company is now “on track to meet its RDOF commitments within the FCC guidelines.”

The provider’s King William County RDOF project is in the construction phase and is estimated to be completed this year. Additional projects in Virginia’s Caroline and Essex counties through RDOF and the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) grant are in the walkout and design phases, with Breezeline estimating they will be completed by fall 2026.  

Walton said the company will also be pursuing opportunities presented by the federal government’s $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program as states begin to select award subgrantees this year.