Following launch, Brightspeed has work to do beyond running fiber

Brightspeed held a ceremony to launch its fiber network recently in Asheboro. (Scott Pelkey/Randolph Record)

ASHEBORO — Brightspeed held an event last week at its Asheboro office officially launching its new fiber network, but the company has work to do, not only running more fiber but with the community itself.

Brightspeed, a subsidiary of private equity firm Apollo Global Management, was founded in 2021 by three former Verizon executives. In October 2022, the company acquired Lumen Technologies, including its DSL and landline phone services across 20 states, as part of a $7.5 billion deal.

Locally, that sale included CenturyLink, its infrastructure, customers and services, but Brightspeed doesn’t plan to offer just phone and DSL services. The company is rolling out its new flagship service, high-speed fiber internet with upload and download speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.

The new fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service includes a mix of two technologies, GPON, a typical FTTH offering, and XGS-PON, a newer technology which can theoretically support much higher speeds, up to 10 gigabits per second.

In addition to the regular fiber service, available to both residences and businesses, larger enterprise customers will be able to purchase dedicated internet access or DIA from Brightspeed, offering service level agreements and faster response to outages.

Brightspeed will be investing “$2 billion in deploying next-generation fiber-optic technology to build a more reliable, super-fast broadband internet network that will reach more than three million homes and businesses across 20 states,” the company said in a press release.

That includes 800,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina, which ranked 29th in the nation for internet coverage, speed and availability according to BroadbandNow.

In Randolph County, Brightspeed is well on its way to its goal of reaching 18,000 locations. Construction has been completed on approximately 16,000 of those, and 12,200 are open for sale. The company says it currently has more than 500 early Brightspeed fiber internet customers in Asheboro and Randolph County.

“Brightspeed’s high-speed internet is not just connecting our small business, it’s propelling us forward to better serve our customers and position my company for the future,” Scott Rusch, one of Brightspeed’s early customers and owner of Antiques & Geeks in downtown Asheboro, said in the press release. Rusch attended last week’s event and said he is getting the promised 1 gigabit per second speed and is happy with the service and price, especially when compared to his previous internet service provider.

Beyond the work of building a new fiber network, Brightspeed also acquired the reputation of CenturyLink’s telephone and DSL services. The company acknowledged it has bridges to mend now that it has taken ownership.

“When Brightspeed acquired legacy telephone and internet business in communities across 20 states, we knew we had to do two things: update a vast network in areas that lack quality, high-speed connectivity options, and, as a new company, improve service for our customers to earn their trust,” said Brightspeed in a statement to the North State Journal. “We know that the second endeavor is a more formidable challenge. Building a reputation isn’t something that we take lightly, and as we build, we ask that our customers in Randolph County give us a chance. Brightspeed is committed to simple, secure, reliable connectivity, as well as investing and partnering with our local community.

Those commitments to local investments and partnerships include becoming a corporate sponsor of Downtown Asheboro Inc. and the NC Zoological Society. Brightspeed is sponsoring the local Coastal Plain Baseball team, the Asheboro Zookeepers, as well as local events such as Zoo City StrEAT Fest. Additionally, it has donated directly to the Randolph County Family Crisis Center, a local nonprofit serving local families in crisis through its emergency shelter, 24-hour crisis line, case management and therapy.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed some of the shortcomings of Randolph County’s high-speed internet infrastructure. County schools, for example, parked school buses with Wi-Fi hot spots to allow students to connect to the internet for school and homework while learning remotely.

Roughly one in 10 North Carolina residents are unable to purchase a wired internet plan of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds, though the Starlink internet service from SpaceX exceeds those speeds for around $100 per month. Brightspeed’s statement that it believes no community should be left behind drew positive comments from elected officials.

“As we celebrate here today, we’re embarking on a journey that provides the Asheboro community and beyond limitless possibilities,” said state Rep. Brian Biggs. “Empowering our state with Brightspeed’s high-speed internet is not just about connecting people. It’s about providing individuals and small businesses what they need to compete and thrive in this fast-paced and highly connected world.”

By Scott Pelkey