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High-speed internet provider Greenlight Networks, LLC of Rochester, whose efforts to expand its fiber optic network have been slow to gain speed, is about to get a boost from billionaire philanthropist Thomas Golisano.
Greenlight and Golisano’s Grand Oaks LLC of Pittsford have filed a joint petition with New York’s Public Service Commission seeking expedited regulatory approval of Grand Oaks’ acquisition of Greenlight for an undisclosed sum.
Since 2012, Greenlight has provided affordable, lightning-fast internet service in eastern Monroe County, providing customers an alternative to giants Charter/Spectrum and Frontier Communications.
However, the company’s fiber network expansion has proceeded at a snail’s pace, particularly for suburbs west of the Genesee River, frustrating potential consumers.
The petition stated that Grand Oaks will acquire controlling equity interest in Greenlight and that the proposed transactions “are in the public interest.’’
“Approval of the Proposed Transaction, as requested by this Petition, will serve the public interest because such approval will provide Greenlight with significant additional capital and managerial resources to help promote further development of the competitive marketplace for high-speed broadband services thereby allowing Greenlight to continue to build and expand its fiber network and become a more effective competitor,’’ the petition read.
Greenlight is at “critical juncture’’ in the construction of its high-speed broadband and fiber network facilities, the petition stated. Review and approval of Golisano’s acquisition is urgent given that Charter/Spectrum is reportedly planning to introduce gigabit service in the near future throughout upstate New York with the exception of Buffalo.
Greenlight’s current rates and terms won’t change. The acquisition would grow jobs, Grand Oaks said.
“Certainly, we’re completely thrilled to have Mr. Golisano as a partner and we’re thrilled for all the people who have been waiting most patiently to get our service,’’ Mark Murphy, president of Greenlight said Saturday.
“This will put us in position to expand much wider and faster. Tom’s philanthropy is so notable and we couldn’t ask for a better partner going forward.’’
Murphy said the company plans to announce “when and where we are going’’ soon but said significant expansion of the network would occur in the last half of 2018. According to its website, Greenlight currently serves Irondequoit, Webster, Brighton, East Rochester, Fairport, Pittsford and Henrietta. It potentially could expand into Greece, Gates, Buffalo, Syracuse, Ithaca, Binghamton and Albany.
More consumers are cutting traditional cable services and streaming television and movies via the internet.
“That’s what most of our consumers are doing, the driver, is wanting this kind of bandwidth, to choose where to get their video from,’’ Murphy said.
He said Golisano’s interest in Greenlight and subsequent investment proposal came about “pretty quickly.’’
The development is great news for consumers, said Brighton’s Phillip Dampier, founder of the consumer advocacy website stopthecap.com.
He said Greenlight’s success is dependent on its ability to rapidly expand its fiber optic network before Charter’s Spectrum, its great competitor, capitalizes on its new capability to match Greenlight’s download speeds.
Spectrum’s recent switch to all-digital channel formats freed up more broadband space so the company could increase its internet speeds for customers.
“Greenlight has stayed on the east side of the Genesee because its problem has been being under-capitalized, they didn’t have the resources to push fiber, and they absolutely have it now,’’ Dampier said. “With Golisano’s skills and his ability to raise capital, it means much faster rollouts of this service.
“A lot of businesses and consumers in Greece and Gates are hungry for this service so it’s very good news. It will give Greenlight a much higher profile and the company itself has expressed expansion outside of Rochester much more.’’
Dampier said his group will file a supporting petition to get expedited approval of the deal.
Greenlight offers 100 megabits-per-second service for $50 up to 1,000 Mbps which it advertises as 100 times faster than average. That costs $100 per month.
Spectrum customers across New York will soon have access to 200 Mbps for $65 and up to 940 for $125 a month. There is an activation fee.
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