Xplornet Communications Inc. acquired Full Throttle Networks Inc., Manitoba’s second Internet service provider, which it purchased in seven months.
The acquisition of Full Throttle and Swift High Speed in September allows the company to acquire nearly 8,000 customers between the two.
In early December, Xplornet was granted access to 3,200 kilometers of fiber optic network owned by Manitoba Hydro Telecom through a request for proposals process. This network, which Manitoba Hydro built to maintain connectivity with its generating stations, has a lot of excess capacity and its use is considered an integral part of broadband access for many severely underserved rural and northern communities in Manitoba.
Since Xplornet bought Swift, construction is already underway to bring fiber to the homes of Swift’s 6,000 customers and the same could happen for Full Throttle’s 1,600 customers.
Dane Davis, the former co-owner of Full Throttle with Kael Onchulenko, couldn’t say it would happen for sure, but he said, “Xplornet is the new good guy. We enter into this agreement knowing that things will improve (for our customers) to a degree that we never could have financed.
When its agreement with the province was announced, Xplornet said it would spend about $200 million in Manitoba over the next two years and that 350 rural communities, including 30 First Nations, would benefit from increased connectivity.
Jordan Young, vice president of business development at Xplornet, said work is progressing well.
He said, “Almost half of the communities that stand to benefit from our fixed wireless network are already able to connect” at faster speeds.
“We will be putting shovelfuls in the ground this construction season to begin rolling out our fiber optic network to the premises,” he said. “The project remains on track to connect more than 125,000 rural Manitobans to high-speed internet by the end of 2023.”
While some reports say Xplornet is still experiencing delays in its ability to connect more customers to the MHT backbone, others say fiber-to-the-home construction is definitely accelerating.
Prior to the December deal between Hydro and Xplornet, Hydro had imposed a stop-sale order for more than a year on new business with MHT as Manitoba Hydro began a reorganization of its non-core assets.
This meant that smaller ISPs such as Swift and Full Throttle couldn’t jump into new development even if they had the capital to do so.
Evan Schroeder, CEO of Swift, said many new broadband construction projects are underway, although Xplornet is experiencing access delays.
(Swift sold its network infrastructure and customers to Xplornet, but retained its construction business, now called Swift Underground.)
“Now we’re doing exactly the same work we were doing before, but we’re extending fiber to the home at a much faster rate than we could have done on our own,” he said.
Although he has an exclusive contract with Xplornet to do this work for his former clients in the towns around Steinbach where he is based, he currently works for other ISPs as well, including RFNow and Broadband Communications North, which focuses almost exclusively on the work of First Nations.
“We were able to diversify based on the fact that we are no longer in competition,” Schroeder said. “We always understand the market and understand how it should work and we get services for new customers or move them from wireless to fiber.”
Martin Cash has written a column and business news for the Free Press since 1989. During those years he wrote through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) of the fortunes of many local businesses .
Read the full biography