Charter buys Maine ISP Bee Line, invests $82M there

Charter Communications is flexing some muscle in Maine in the face of growing fiber coverage from the likes of Consolidated Communications. The cable company announced plans to invest a total $82 million there over the coming years and scooped up Bee Line Cable to flesh out its footprint in the central part of the state.

Despite its name, Bee Line actually boasts 300 miles of fiber cable, which it uses to serve internet and digital voice products to consumers in Anson, East Millinocket, Farmington, Industry, Madison, Millinocket, Skowhegan and Wilton. While its network was originally built with cable, Bee Line began overbuilding its footprint with fiber in 2002. It currently offers speed tiers ranging from 30 Mbps up to 500 Mbps and recently rolled out a managed Wi-Fi product for $4 per month.

A Charter representative told Fierce the Bee Line transaction involves markets in Somerset, Franklin and Penobscot Counties. Charter has already secured the necessary regulatory approvals for the deal and expects it to close “soon.” Once the transaction is complete, Charter plans “to invest millions in its network and operations in communities currently served by Bee Line” and will eventually offer Bee Line customers its Spectrum line of connectivity services, with speed tiers starting at 300 Mbps, the representative added.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Network upgrades

Beyond the acquisition, Charter is also investing a total of $82 million to upgrade and expand its network in the state. That figure reportedly includes $70 million to upgrade its existing assets with multi-gigabit capabilities and another $12 million for a rural expansion to reach 3,500 unserved locations in Somerset and Oxford Counties. The Charter representative said the investment is 100% private funding rather than grant money and that constructin in Somerset and Oxford is "expected to begin in the coming months, pending the successful completion of permitting and utility-pole attachment applications."

Already this year, Charter spent more than $563,000 (and $62,000 in matching funds from the town) to bring its service to 205 homes in Westport Island, Maine.

The new projects will build on the $73 million Charter spent in 2022 to expand its network to 10,000 new homes across Maine. According to its website, Charter already serves over 466,000 customers in 295 communities in the state.

Notable competition in Maine includes Consolidated Communications, which already covers more than 30 markets across the state. This includes fiber in the areas of Augusta, Bangor, Portland and Rockland, among others. Last month, the operator won a pair of grants from the Maine Connectivity Authority totaling nearly $17 million to expand its fiber service to another 15,800 locations there, despite a challenge from Charter.

Maine’s governor has promised to deliver broadband to everyone in the state who wants it by the end of 2024.