EarthLink wraps up final leg of 500 mile Eastern Tenn. middle mile network

EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK) on Wednesday completed the last phase of its Eastern Tennessee Middle Mile Broadband Project, a 500-plus mile network that will provide access to a number of underserved communities in the eastern part of the state.

During the process of building this network, EarthLink deployed 15 DWDM-capable Points of Presence (PoPs) in the state, enabling it to deliver up to 10G DWDM optical services in these smaller communities in addition to serving the state's two major metro markets, Nashville and Memphis.

This project was made possible through a $9.4 million Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant targeting communities that Connected Tennessee, a community technology advocacy organization, deems underserved.

The Eastern Tennessee project enables EarthLink to offer its Business IT and communications service sets to area businesses and community anchor institutions such as colleges and hospitals that had limited service options before now.

Similar to other middle mile network initiatives such as Open Cape in Southern Massachusetts, the Eastern Tennessee network is a dual-purpose network that will also provide up to 10G wholesale access interconnection services to other area service providers, including those providing services to consumers. Already, EarthLink has signed up Morristown Fibernet and Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative, which will use 1 Gbps of dedicated Internet access and 1 GigE IP transport from Cookeville, Tenn., to Huntsville, Ala.

Last March, EarthLink completed the first phase of the Tennessee Broadband project, including overbuilding a 343-mile fiber route from Nashville to Knoxville, and the addition of a new diverse fiber optic route from Knoxville to Chattanooga. In the second phase of the project, which was completed in June 2011, EarthLink deployed a fiber optic route from Knoxville, Tenn., to Bristol, Tenn.

Along the route of the middle mile network are three PoPs in Knoxville, Tenn.; Morristown, Tenn.; Johnson City, Tenn.; and Bristol, Tenn. In building the third phase of the project, EarthLink established five network interconnection points including Cookeville, Tenn., Oak Ridge, Tenn., Cleveland, Tenn., Sweetwater, Tenn., and Morristown, Tenn.

Network expansion has been an ongoing strategy for EarthLink as it tries to win the mindshare of more business and wholesale customers.

The completion of the middle mile network in Tennessee comes on the heels of the company's East Coast and Western network expansion efforts. On the East Coast, EarthLink increased its network capacity in Ashburn, Va., Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Orlando, in addition to extending its fiber network into Texas, adding seven major markets including the rapidly growing DASH (Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston) segment.

While the CLEC's Q3 business revenues declined $0.4 million, or 0.2 percent, over Q2 2012, it continues to become a larger part of EarthLink's revenue mix. In the third quarter, business services made up 77 percent of the of service provider's overall revenue, up from 74 percent in Q3 2011.  

Albeit still a new player, EarthLink could potentially leverage the Tennessee network to bolster its ongoing wholesale services drive, which it began with the launch of its wholesale division, a combination of the assets it purchased from ITC^DeltaCom, New Edge Networks and One Communications. During the third quarter the company reported $38.2 million in wholesale revenues.

Earthlink East Tennessee Broadband Project map

Image source: Earthlink

For more:
- see the release

Special report: Wireline telecom earnings in the third quarter

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