American Broadband gets growing with BNT buy, snags T-Mobile exec

Rural operator American Broadband purchased the fiber assets of Nebraska provider BNT Broadband for an undisclosed sum, executing on what executives characterized as an aggressive growth strategy.

American Broadband and its family of brands (including Cameron Communications and TelAkaska), provide voice, video and broadband service to rural communities across Nebraska, Missouri, Alaska, Louisiana and Texas.

Jim Patterson, American Broadband’s chief strategy officer, told Fierce the operator currently passes just under 60,000 homes today and has customer relationships with about 60% to 65% of those. While the company is mainly focused on upgrading existing copper plant to GPON fiber, he said it is “always looking for ways to grow.” That means everything from edge outs to acquisitions in areas that make sense.

“We believe, just like cable did back in the ‘90s, that a highly clustered network is easier to defend and we also believe that it does a better job of serving customers, particularly commercial customers who have multiple locations across a given region,” he explained, adding “there are good operating efficiencies and scale efficiencies to have in clusters.”

Speaking of BNT specifically, Patterson said the deal for its fiber assets was appealing because the operator has both a fiber construction and service arm and its network architecture is similar to American Broadband’s other assets in Nebraska.

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Chris Eldredge, American Broadband's CEO, said in a statement "The acquisition of BNT Broadband is the first in a series of new efforts by our company," adding "we are now accelerating into our company’s next phase of growth through continuous, organic expansion and acquisition.”

In terms of American Broadband’s overall growth ambitions, Patterson noted “our targets are measured in multiples, not in percents. So, we’re just under 60,000 homes passed. Our target is not to grow 10 or 15%, our target is to grow multiples of that number in a fairly short time.”

Its efforts are getting a boost from private equity firms Madison Dearborn Partners and Catania ABC Partners, which closed on a deal to acquire American Broadband in May. Patterson characterized Madison Dearborn as a highly experienced partner which has “been there and done everything” in the telecom space. He added the firm is “helpful in helping us find the capital to be able to fulfill the business plans, whether it’s an acquisition or an edge out.”

New appointments

American Broadband is also working to strengthen its leadership team, announcing the hire of former Sprint and T-Mobile executive Tim Johnson as president and general manager for its Nebraska operation.

Johnson was most recently in charge of technology procurement at T-Mobile, having joined the company following its merger with Sprint. He previously managed wholesale operations at Sprint and oversaw the implementation of Sprint’s voice over IP offering for cable partners.

Patterson, who also worked at Sprint for more than a decade, hailed Johnson as “a super organizer” with “a great track record.”

The company also promoted internal candidate Brett Stains to SVP of finance, putting him in charge of accounting, financial reporting, tax and audit compliance and planning and analysis. He previously served as American Broadband’s Corporate Controller following his hire in 2014.


This story has been updated to clarify American Broadband purchased only BNT's fiber assets, not the entire entity.