Greenlight’s new focus

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High-speed broadband internet provider Greenlight Networks has returned to its roots with several recent endeavors.

Earlier this year, the company revealed a new focus on multi-dwelling units, mixed-use environments, and small businesses.

“(MDUs) were where the business started, to be honest, before we got aggressive, growing by building districts in neighborhoods and towns,” says Kevin Gorman, commercial development director at Greenlight. “There’s also an emphasis on those boutique-y little shops that look an awful lot like a residential customer, but have more mission-critical requirements.”

Greenlight has grown substantially since its founding in 2011, now serving 27 municipalities throughout Rochester, Binghamton, Buffalo, Albany and the Hudson Valley area, with its eye on other states. The company has built a solid reputation, seemingly by word of mouth, Gorman says, a fact that continues to amaze the 37-year telecom veteran. 

He sees the positive reputation as a natural result of Greenlight’s customer service, and its comparatively low pricing. While Greenlight’s basic plan recently increased from $50 to $55, this move was not made during the COVID pandemic, when people were even more reliant on the internet, and also came with a decrease in pricing for top-speed plan options.

In Monroe County, Greenlight’s primary customers are businesses and residences, according to National Broadband data from the Federal Communications Commission. As of Dec. 31, 2023, 82 percent of locations provided internet by its fiber-optic network were a mix of residential and business.

The rise in the “work from home” model and new lifestyle patterns that have residential, commercial, and entertainment offerings all under one roof are examples that Gorman gives for this continued focus on multi-dwelling units.

“If you look at where development is happening, especially in cities like Rochester and Buffalo, there’s a lot of convergence of beautiful old industrial architecture into sensational mixed-use development,” he observes. “Some people never have to leave their building now. They’re designing them to have a little bit of everything.”

Indeed, mixed-use properties are rising across the country, with developers championing the potential for diverse renter communities, convenience for “life-work-play,” and maximizing space and efficiency.

Rochester’s downtown core is a prime example of this type of development. Sibley Square is now home to the Liberty Loft apartments, Mercantile on Main dining, and six floors of commercial space. Construction under way on the Alta Vista apartments at St. Joseph’s Park, the Gannett Building, and the Center City Courtyard all include residential and office space.

That area is one location Greenlight has yet to fully cover. Most of its service is in surrounding suburbs, with census tracts in Penfield, Webster, and Greece having close to or over 2,000 locations with fixed broadband fiber on premises. In contrast, downtown Rochester has 56 locations with Greenlight’s network.

For Greenlight, expansion without losing its reputation for service requires deliberate and careful planning when looking at areas to provide coverage. Since installing fiber-optic connections is a lengthy process that can take years depending on easements and permits, identifying the correct location is paramount.

“In some markets, where it’s already crowded, we won’t go there,” Gorman says. “Because it’s also about us sticking to our knitting; we know what we’re really good at and that’s what we do. We don’t try to be something we’re not.”

And fiber-optic providers outside of the large companies like Spectrum and Frontier could be starting to crowd locally. Niacom, a Clarence-based business, started providing fiber options in Erie County in 2022. GoNetSpeed, formed in 2021 out of six companies, also provides service in New York. (GoNetSpeed’s parent company is private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners, which also has a controlling interest in Greenlight, with a $300 million investment in 2022.)

The speed offered by fiber-optic connection will be necessary, though, considering the progression of technology, Gorman believes, citing Nielsen’s law of internet bandwidth, which states that users’ bandwidth grows by 50 percent a year. 

“It’s a given rule at this point that internet connectivity is a necessity to life now,” Gorman says. “With the amount of Zooming and streaming and connection we have to living, working and playing, it’s only going to be more important.”

Other recent Greenlight developments include:

■ increasing upper threshold offerings from 5 to 8 gigabit symmetrical speed, while also dropping price for that top plan by 25 percent;

■ Providing “consumer labels,” which, similar to nutritional labels, give a breakdown of speeds, data, network privacy, and additional terms six months before it was required by new regulations from the FCC; 

■ introducing a Wi-Fi router recycling program to cut down on the 80 percent of e-waste that is found in a landfill or informally recycled; and 

■ offering new business services, including 24/7/365 support; segmented network traffic to ensure connectivity; and Total Managed Wi-Fi (available to all customers) to avoid “dead zones.”

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and data journalist. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

One thought on “Greenlight’s new focus

  1. Once again, the most impoverished areas of the county are left behind. The lack of reliable, high-speed internet access means people living in these areas cannot work from home, and their children can’t depend on the internet to do their schoolwork. Until we provide equitable access to services to everyone in the county, we keep our foot on the necks of our neighbors living in poverty. Greenlight needs to become a part of the solution.

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