Gigabit Cities

Tucows Buys Into Gigabit Services

Longtime Internet and mobile services player Tucows is getting into the gigabit services game with the acquisition of a small fiber network and ISP in Virginia.

Tucows , which offers everything from domain name registration to mobile service through subsidiary Ting Mobile, a Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) MVNO, has acquired the assets of Blue Ridge InternetWorks, which provides high-speed Internet access and hosting to more than 3,000 customers in Central Virginia. Tucows CEO Elliot Noss tells Light Reading that the move is its first of many in the Gigabit Cities realm, and a natural progression of Tucows' decades-old focus.

"We're old ISP guys. Every business we've had -- from the old shareware libraries to domain names through to Ting Mobile -- has an ISP nexus to it," Noss says. "The next natural business problem is fixed Internet access. I've been watching this space evolve very closely and looking for the right opportunity."

That opportunity turned out to be acquisition and the formation of a new subsidiary called Ting Internet, making Ting the first mobile-only provider to make the jump to gigabit and giving credence to the idea that gigabit services could very well be the mass-market proposition that entities like Google Fiber Inc. envision. Ting Internet plans to provide ultra-high-speed connectivity to customers with a sub-$100/month price tag, Noss says, and also introduce a pay-TV offering in 2015.

For the latest on urban network innovation, visit Light Reading's dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel. And watch for forthcoming details on Light Reading's Gigabit Cities Live event, to be held in May 2015 in Atlanta.

Of all the models for entering the gigabit services sector, Noss likes Google Fiber's the best, and views traditional service providers' approaches as most resembling the much-reviled "fiber-to-the-press-release" strategy. (See AT&T Grows Gigabit Goals and CenturyLink Aims Gigabit at Businesses.)

"There are a number of big, incumbent telcos claiming to be offering gigabit if they're offering it in a very select range of homes," he says. "From our perspective, what Google is doing is still the most unique. They're really the only folks going in with a clean gigabit offering to whoever wants it. We don't think that any other private companies are doing that."

The company is acquiring 70% of the newly formed Ting Virginia and its subsidiaries, Blue Ridge Websoft (doing business as Blue Ridge InternetWorks), Fiber Roads and Navigator Network Services. The remaining 30% interest in Ting Virginia will be retained by the current owners of the BRI Group, the founders of which will remain with the company. The price and terms of the acquisition were not announced.

Noss says public/private partnership with municipalities is also a strong possibility for Ting's entry into other regional markets.

"This is a huge market, and there are thousands of cities and towns across the US," he says. "Partnering with munis just expands the footprint where we can offer service. I can't tell you what this looks like 20 years from now, or even what 2016 looks like, but we're going to do a couple years and get good at this."

— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading

KBode 12/19/2014 | 9:14:48 AM
Re: no Title II deterrent here... In their blog post, they make it clear that they're very big net neutrality supporters, and that part of the initiative is about educating the public on net neutrality:

"Tucows believes very strongly in the open Internet. Up until now, there wasn't a whole lot we could do but educate, agitate and contribute. Getting into fixed access, owning our own pipe, is an opportunity for us to practice what we preach when it comes to the open Internet and net neutrality."

Honestly, most of the companies worried about Title II based net neutrality rules are those worried that they'll lose billions by not being allowed to abuse uncompetitive markets with "creative" pricing that punishes the consumer for being a captive audience. I've seen no such worries on the parts of folks like Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper.

mhhf1ve 12/18/2014 | 7:55:27 PM
no Title II deterrent here... I think it's interesting that there doesn't seem to be any hesistation for acquiring a fiber business in the face of net neutrality uncertainty. Tucows is apparently confident that FCC rules will not impose any undue regulations on its future business doing fiber, so perhaps this is a good sign that incumbents and cablecos are needlessly spouting FUD about Title II reclassification.
KBode 12/18/2014 | 8:50:52 AM
Re: How many ways to a gig? I'd tend to agree.

Very interested to see what their specific pricing will be.

Of course we saw Earthlink bet on municipal Wi-Fi partnerships some time back, and those didn't quite pan out. Still, I like the idea of public/private partnerships to shore up coverage and service where a lack of competition has left holes.
jasonmeyers 12/17/2014 | 3:21:07 PM
How many ways to a gig? It's striking to see how many different avenues and business models are cropping up in this gigabit networks/services sector -- and how many different entities want a piece. The most intriguing one to me right now is the service provider/muni partnership, which typically brings together network assets and service expertise. I'm betting we'll see a lot more moves like Tucows' in the very near future.   
mendyk 12/17/2014 | 3:19:19 PM
flashback If Tucows is back, can mullets and parachute pants be far behind?
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