Greenlight Networks Will Build Out in Gates in the Coming Months
Greenlight Networks is taking the leap across the Genesee River in a big way, lighting up large swaths of Gates with its high-speed fiber optic internet service in the coming months.
Since its founding in 2011, Greenlight Networks has been moving across the Rochester area a few neighborhoods at a time, as resident interest and funds allowed. But since a company owned by billionaire and philanthropist Tom Golisano acquired the company earlier this year, Greenlight’s installation speeds and overall business scale have gone into overdrive.
“We’re going to be able to go to multiple towns simultaneously,” said Greenlight CEO Mark Murphy, noting that the new approach won’t hinder the work already being done in east side municipalities. “It just allows us to do more at once and execute more quickly on those places where we are.”
The goal is to be installing fiber optic at double the current pace by January 2019, he said. With investments from Golisano and also Impact Capital — a local venture capital fund — Greenlight will be able to double its staff size and revolutionize its installation methods to cover more ground at a faster clip.
The areas slated for service had already expressed interest in Greenlight, said Murphy — “It kind of sells itself,” he said. The service already exists in small pockets of the city’s west side, near Aquinas Institute.
Once Greenlight identified a neighborhood as a “Greenlight district” based on resident interest, it would typically wait until enough neighbors in that area sign on as customers before it shouldered the expense of equipment, permits and the third-party contractors to build out the network.
The company provides service of up to a gigabit, or 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps), which is 10 times faster than the typical baseline household speed of 100 Mbps. Megabits per second denotes how much data can be transmitted in a given amount of time.
With the extra capital, the size of Greenlight’s “districts” have grown exponentially.
“It’s now a couple thousand homes at once, not a couple hundred,” said Murphy, and once a localized installation process gets going, those houses could be hooked up in a few months or even weeks.
West side eager for Greenlight
Gates residents have been calling town officials in recent months, inquiring about Greenlight, said Supervisor Mark Assini.
He sat down with Greenlight staff before the Golisano announcement was made to discuss how to bring the service to his town, which included finding strategic locations for about a half dozen hubs to anchor the fiber network in the area, he said.
Debuting a new area service can only be good for residents and businesses, said Assini, as other providers will be forced to offer a better product at a competitive price.
“(Greenlight’s) entry into the market, whether you have Greenlight or stay with Spectrum, is going to force those other two players to make sure they’re doing better,” said Assini, referring to Spectrum and Frontier Communications, the other major telecom providers in the region.
Greenlight is currently servicing parts of the city of Rochester, plus neighborhoods in Brighton, Irondequoit, Henrietta, Pittsford, Webster, East Rochester and Fairport.
Greenlight is also looking at other markets on the west side, said Murphy.
Race for Speed
Spectrum appeared to respond to the increased competition this spring by rolling out a gigabit internet option to match Greenlight’s speeds. The company announced in April that the service would be available in virtually all of Spectrum’s 41-state service area by the end of 2018.
Spectrum’s offering is comparable in price to Greenlight’s at around $100 per month if you’re a new customer, although Spectrum charges a bit more if you’re an existing customer — both companies’ gigabit service is more expensive than the baseline service of 100 Mbps.
Frontier offers bundle packages and internet packages of up to 25 Mbps in the Rochester area.
For Greenlight, a gig is already too slow. The company recently announced its installation of Nokia XGS-PON fiber technology in the area, which will allow existing networks to ramp up to 10-gigabit “ultra-broadband” service. That’ll provide high-end speed for business customers and 8K/12K video streaming capability, providing an ultra high-definition visual.
High-quality internet connection can’t come fast enough for most U.S. residents. New York’s downstate urban areas are crowded with competitive broadband providers that cover most of the area, but rural areas don’t have as many options, especially in the high-speed realm.
The FCC set 25 Mbps as the minimum speed for broadband service, but over 24 million Americans still lack fixed terrestrial broadband at that speed at the end of 2016, the report said.
As of year-end 2016, 92 percent of all Americans have access to fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps, up from 89 percent in 2014 and 81 percent in 2012, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, released in February of this year.
Building out in the West
To speed up the Greenlight build out in new neighborhoods, the company plans to implement an installation method called “microtrenching.”
Contractors will bury a “stack” of fiber cables in the roadway asphalt in a “trench” that’s between 8 and 16 inches deep, depending on the road, said Murphy. In local neighborhoods, they could be laid at a rate of up to 1,500 feet — or a quarter of a mile — per day, said Murphy. That means an entire neighborhood could be hooked up within a few weeks.
“It’s more expensive, but faster,” he said, adding that it’s also more efficient for installing contractors, as they only need to hit a major area once.
Once a large area shows significant interest, the company will help expedite the customer goal process by sending out sales representatives to handle resident outreach and bring a larger percentage of neighborhoods on board. Greenlight’s University Avenue headquarters is undergoing an expansion to accommodate 20 new engineers, designers and sales and support staff.
“The people in the office are beyond excited, just because of the buzz that’s been going on in the community around us,” said Murphy. “It’s just a really exciting time to be at Greenlight.”
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