A Lubbock, Texas-based internet service provider proposes carpeting Santa Fe and Albuquerque with citywide 10-gigabit fiber-optic broadband internet service.
Vexus Fiber’s application for a telecommunications franchise license has been accepted in Santa Fe and is proceeding through three city committees before reaching the City Council, potentially on Dec. 8.
Vexus wants to start installing fiber optics in April, deliver service to the first neighborhood by summer and have service in place across Santa Fe in 2024-25, CEO Jim Gleason said.
Internet service providers in Santa Fe typically offer far greater downstream capability — downloading data — than upstream capability, where it can take hours to upload data rather than minutes.
“Upstreaming is a challenge here,” said Rich Brown, the city’s economic development director.
Gleason said Vexus would have equal upstream and downstream bandwidth.
Gleason estimates ultimately having 13,000 to 15,000 customers in Santa Fe and 80,000 to 90,000 customers in Albuquerque. These would mark Vexus’ entry into New Mexico, with the company now serving 60,000 customers in 28 mostly small West Texas cities and nine Louisiana cities east of Baton Rouge and across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.
“We are going to build a brand new fiber network [in Santa Fe],” Gleason said. “We are building a future-proof network. Many networks have been upgraded many, many times over the years. We believe a brand new network is necessary over the next 25 years.”
Vexus has been in expansion mode since the management team of Vast Broadband in South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota acquired NTS Communications in Lubbock in 2019 and rebranded it as Vexus Fiber. The Vast team that acquired NTS has since sold Vast.
Gleason said Vexus added 10 cities in Texas and more cities around Hammond in Louisiana. Vexus also built out the fiber-optic systems in the NTS-served Texas cities of Abilene, Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Lubbock and Midland.
Most of the cities Vexus serves have fewer than 10,000 residents and are within the greater Lubbock area, with a few in surrounding areas of Wichita Falls, Abilene and Amarillo.
Vexus started to look west to New Mexico one year ago and visited Santa Fe and Albuquerque six months ago, Gleason said.
“It seemed to fit what we do,” Gleason said. “We really like the diversity of the economy. We also like the growth prospects.”
Albuquerque would become Vexus’ largest city.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber met with Vexus representatives once.
“There is a lot of new growth with tech businesses that would benefit from high-speed connections,” Webber said in an interview. “They want to do connections for more people working at home.”
Webber said a key for Santa Fe’s future is reliable, fast broadband.
“This network should play a significant part in forging the path to the future, to providing cutting-edge technology that will add to our quality of life, promote entrepreneurship, and foster economic diversification,” Webber said in a news release.
Gleason said Vexus, with its fiber-optic system, likes to compete with phone and cable companies with internet service. In Lubbock, he said, Vexus is the third-largest internet service provider behind the AT&T phone and Suddenlink cable providers, and in Santa Fe, the primary competition is Comcast and CenturyLink.
Brown, the economic development director, believes the Vexus service, not bundled with cable or phone service, would be ideal for people now working at home, youth needs, the emerging technology sector and the film industry.
“They are offering broadband to the whole city,” Brown said. “There are folks that don’t have broadband. There are places on the south side with no broadband.“
Vexus Fiber would be available everywhere within the Santa Fe city limits, Gleason said.
“We will evaluate where we go beyond the city limits,” Gleason said, referencing the foothills to the north and east. “Some we will be able to build, some we won’t.”
Vexus aims to install fiber optics overhead or underground along existing utility rights of way.
Santa Fe-based NMSurf, a fixed wireless internet service provider, has 4,500 customers in an area bounded by Española, Las Vegas, Edgewood and Albuquerque.
“We welcome the competition,” owner Albert Catanach said. “Having more choices is a wonderful thing. The fiber optic is a great thing, but it’s a pretty expensive thing to do. I applaud them if they are able to do it.”
The Vexus modus operandi has been to serve small and very small communities surrounding its larger cities. For now, the company is focusing on Santa Fe and Albuquerque proper.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we do the same thing [in small towns around Santa Fe and Albuquerque],” Gleason said.
Correction: A previous version of this story included an incorrect number of customers Santa Fe-based NMSurf has in an area bounded by Española, Las Vegas, Edgewood and Albuquerque. The company has 4,500 customers in that area.