Cable One invests in two fixed wireless ISPs

Cable One revealed that it has invested in two fixed wireless ISPs – Wisper Internet and NextLink – as the service provider pushes forward with a strategy to use alternative technologies to branch into less dense areas near its traditional wired footprint.

Cable One, which made a note of recent investments into fixed wireless back in May but didn't name the targets, said it had acquired a 40% stake in Wisper and a less than 10% stake in NextLink, noting that both companies are also Connect America Fund phase II winners.

Nathan Stooke will remain the largest owner of Mascoutah, Illinois-based Wisper. Bill Baker, NextLink's CEO and majority owner, will continue to run the day-to-day business of the ISP. Founded in 2012, Weatherford, Texas-based NextLink currently provides a mix of uncapped Internet services (up to 100 Mbit/s and 10 Mbit/s up) along with voice add-on options.

"We believe that fixed wireless is a great complement to our business in less dense areas surrounding our markets," Cable One SVP and CFO Steven Cochran said today on the company's Q2 call, noting that both companies operate in states in which Cable One already provides service.

The investments show that Cable One is taking a technology-agnostic approach that still squares with its central strategy to focus on connectivity, broadband and business services.

That strategy continues to be reflected in Cable One's results.

In Q2, the operator added 145,000 residential broadband customers, up 23.7% year-over-year and by more than 44,000 on a sequential basis. Cable One ended the period with 758,000 residential data customers.

Cable One, which recently restored its usage-based policy with higher monthly data ceilings, said data usage in Q2 climbed more than 52% year-over-year and more than 13% versus Q1 2020.

The operator, which has ignored pay-TV under its broadband-centric strategy, lost 17,000 video subs in Q2, shrinking the total to 276,000.

Business revenues grew 17.5% even as the pandemic put pressure on that part of the business. The number of businesses that restarted or upgraded service in the quarter outpaced the 630 business customers – less than 1% of the overall base – that paused or downgraded service, company CEO Julie Laulis said.

Cable One estimates that the pandemic and the company's responses to it negatively impacted adjusted EBITDA by $14.9 million in Q2. That was partially driven by a drop in revenues from the temporary suspension of data overage fees, late charges and reconnect fees and reduced advertising and business service revenues as well as higher labor costs and bad debt expenses.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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