Ziply Fiber is turning Frontier’s former network assets in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana into a fiber powerhouse with plans to cover more than 80% of its four-state territory with fiber in three years. The company said in April that will invest $500 million to improve the network and the customer service in its four-state footprint.
Ziply was created in May 2020 after Frontier Communications sold its operations and assets in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana to WaveDivision Capital in partnership with Searchlight Capital Partners for $1.35 billion. At the time of the sale, Frontier had passed about 30% of the 1.7 million locations in the four-state footprint with fiber. Ziply Fiber CEO Harold Zeitz said he believes it is possible to expand that to more than 80% in the next three years by leveraging much of the existing assets.
Zeitz said that when the new owners looked at Frontier’s network in the four states they realized that they could leverage the existing infrastructure to build fiber but do it at a lower cost. “We use our own assets,” Zeitz said. “The poles, the conduit, the central offices and the fiber that connects those, and then we overlay the existing copper plant with fiber.”
In its first year of operation Ziply expanded fiber to 16 new markets in its footprint and the company announced at the end of April that it will bring fiber to an additional 22 markets this year.
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As part of its fiber expansion plans, Ziply hopes to work with municipalities and other public entities to create public private partnerships. The company has done that already in Orofino, Idaho, where it expanded fiber to the city as part of an Idaho Broadband Grant Program that allocated $6.7 million to the north central region of Idaho for broadband expansion.
The company also said that it has added more than 400 new employees in the past year. That’s in addition to the 1,000 employees that Ziply inherited from Frontier. Zeitz said that in the fall of 2019, prior to WaveDivision and Frontier closing on the deal, he was able to travel to every market and meet every employee. In hindsight Zeitz realizes how lucky he was to be able to do that before the Covid-19 pandemic hit and travel became difficult. “It was really fortuitous that I was able to do that,” he said.