Meridiam rides fiber train in Alabama with $230M investment

  • Meridiam is investing $230 million to build an open access fiber network in Alabama

  • The firm is teaming up with Yellowhammer Networks on the project

  • Local ISP Omnipoint will be the initial tenant on the network

Alabama is getting a major open access fiber boost via private investment.

Meridiam, an infrastructure investment firm, is kicking off a $230 million project to build an open access network that will reach 17 Alabama cities, including Selma and Demopolis.

It aims to eventually cover 53,000 homes and businesses in partnership with Yellowhammer Networks, a fiber-to-the-premises network developer that’s financed by Meridiam.

This is far from Meridiam’s first time riding in the broadband infrastructure rodeo. According to Omri Gainsburg, COO of Meridiam in the Americas, the firm’s current fiber portfolio includes projects with more than 16,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, passing nearly 1.5 million premises.

“Our approach to fiber is squarely in line with our investment strategy and the impact-driven philosophy that we’ve used in investing in sustainable mobility, critical public services and low carbon solutions,” he told Fierce.

The 17 cities on the project’s roadmap lie in Alabama’s Black Belt region. Meridiam approached these local governments with the idea and funding to build “utility-like” fiber broadband infrastructure via partnerships “that would serve residents throughout their communities, regardless of their income levels.”

“Alabama has lagged most of the country in broadband penetration with estimates from the U.S. Census and other sources suggesting as many as 30% of people in the state lacking adequate access,” Gainsburg said.

He added Meridiam is establishing local operating companies in every market, led by a local management team to ensure that “decisions are made in the community for the community.”

Here’s where Yellowhammer Networks, which is based in Selma, comes in.

Yellowhammer will provide “strategic, technical and operational expertise, along with financial resources.” It’s also committed to funding 100% of the project. Omnipoint will be the initial ISP tenant on Yellowhammer’s open access network.

Yellowhammer was one of 16 ISPs that recently won grants from Alabama’s Capital Projects Fund. The company bagged two grants totaling $5.1 million to expand broadband in Bibb, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Marengo, Perry and Sumter counties (which happen to be some of the counties Meridiam mentioned in its press release).

Construction recently began in Selma, Gainsburg said, with Meridiam estimating the city’s first customers will get service by the end of June.

“We’ll be able to share more information about service then,” he concluded.

Meridam and Yellowhammer aren't the only ones working to expand broadband access in Alabama. C Spire has been building up its metro and long-haul fiber assets in the state for the last several years, a move it told Fierce is necessary to facilitate last mile rollouts there.