Nextlink speeds Nebraska fiber build with Bluestem acquisition

Nextlink Internet is looking to connect parts of Nebraska faster than it otherwise would be able to, closing a deal to acquire fiber-to-the-home assets from local operator Bluestem Network for an undisclosed sum.

Claude Aiken, Nextlink’s chief strategy officer, told Fierce the purchase includes the physical fiber, subscribers, hardware and leases for the majority of Bluestem’s network, which spans towns including Milford, Pleasant Dale and Seward as well as part of Lancaster County. However, a small portion of its network in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, was not part of the deal.

According to its website, Bluestem provides business and residential fiber service. In the latter category it offers symmetrical speeds of 300 Mbps, 500 Mbps and 1-gig. Pricing seems to differ by market.

Aiken added “This deal is a great catalyst for doing more fiber in small towns and rural areas across Nebraska. It gives us speed to market in these key communities that would have taken quite a while to build otherwise.”

The acquisition comes after Nextlink in September secured more than $4 million from Gage County, Nebraska, to build fiber to around 1,000 homes there over the course of two years. News Channel Nebraska reported the total project cost was an estimated $13 million. Gage County borders the southern edge of Lancaster County.

In addition to its work in Gage County, Nextlink is ramping up work on its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) projects after finally having its $429 million in funding authorized in August. Nextlink’s RDOF winnings included $25.35 million to cover 13,919 locations across the state of Nebraska. It’s also still working to complete its Connect America Fund (CAF) obligations, though is more than halfway through those.

On top of everything, Aiken said Nextlink is “aggressively deploying gigabit fiber and gigabit wireless across our footprint” for organic expansions as well. The gigabit wireless service he mentioned is being offered using Tarana’s fixed wireless access technology.

Aiken declined to share build targets for 2023 but said the operator will provide more detail “in the coming months.”