Greenlight Networks says demand for their fiber broadband service is exceeding their expectations.

BUFFALO, N.Y. —Back in November, 2 On Your Side highlighted the fact that the City of Buffalo only had one high-speed broadband provider and asked lawmakers about why that was. That led to new franchise agreements being approved by the Common Council. In early December a new provider, Greenlight Networks, announced it would be coming to Buffalo.


So in the three or so months since the announcement, where does the project stand?


“We’re unbelievably excited about getting over to the Buffalo-Niagara region,” said Greenlight Networks CEO Mark Murphy. Murphy says that over 11,000 people have already expressed interest in the Greenlight Networks website for service in the Buffalo area.


“The interest level has been in line if not a little bit better than what we had anticipated. But we got a lot of interest in areas in Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Lancaster, and North Tonawanda.”


Murphy said Grand Island has also expressed interest in the high-speed service. Greenlight Networks was born out of a similar situation that Buffalo had prior to our reporting – a one provider town. But as data suggested more and more people were looking for just internet and not bundled packages of cable, phone, and security, greenlight executives saw an opportunity.


“The technology was continuing to get better both with the fiber optic side, the costs are coming down and then on the streaming side the video quality and the choices continue to improve so we certainly saw an opportunity there.”


While the Buffalo market seems eager and ready, there are some hurdles. Nearly 20% of city proper residents don’t have access to broadband internet, because service isn’t offered where they live or because of the costs associated with being connected, according to a 2018 American Community Survey.


Keep in mind, Buffalo is one of the most impoverished cities in the country, with an overall poverty rate of 30.3% and a childhood poverty rate of nearly 50% (47.8%).


2 On Your Side spoke to lawmakers after the Common Council voted to change the city’s fiber franchise agreement template. One of the big concerns for Council President Darius Pridgen is the costs of any new service coming to Buffalo.


“The first question that they were asked was, what about some of the more struggling neighborhoods?” Pridgen asked. “Their response was, those are the neighborhoods at times are most interested in because they have density, where you have suburban areas and more affluent areas that don’t have the density.”


While Pridgen said the common council can’t force any business to make decisions as to where they should serve customers, he said a clear point was made to Greenlight about where they should provide service.


“It has already been encouraged by this common council to ensure that areas that sometimes do not see that growth when there is something new that comes to the city, those areas we are asking that they’d be the first to be considered.”


Greenlight’s business model requires people to sign up on its website, but if the areas in Buffalo most in need don’t have quality access, how do they sign up?


“We send out thousands of door hangers a month, people go out and canvass their neighborhood,” Murphy said. “People are passionate about getting the service in their neighborhood.”


Murphy says that grassroots outreach to neighborhoods is beginning to happen in Buffalo. Greenlight will be installing fiber service that, at least on paper, will make those who are frustrated with current broadband speeds quite happy.


“Right now that service at $50 a month is five times faster than what they would be getting for a similar product from the cable company, that they’d be paying $70/month for on a standalone basis. “


2 On Your Side reached out to Charter Communications, which operates under the Spectrum name in New York State, to comment on the claims made by Murphy.


“Spectrum internet is widely available across Buffalo and WNY, to the overwhelming majority of homes in the communities we serve,” said Lara Pritchard, Senior Director, Communications for Charter Communications. “Any honest comparison of services would include hard facts about availability today and tomorrow.”


As for what’s next, sometime this month Greenlight plans to announce where the first deployment of its fiber broadband will be. Greenlight will need to negotiate right of way agreements with National Grid and Verizon, who own poles in the city. Then the company will begin buildout for third-quarter 2020 deployment to customers.


“We’re really excited about coming to Buffalo. It’s the first market we’ve come to outside of Rochester so we’re trying to make sure we’ve got significant resources and make a good first impression because you know we want this to be hugely successful.”


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