A new-wave broadband firm dials up Frontier Communications

General Telephone, GTE, then Verizon and Frontier — what’s next for our legacy phone company?

Steven Weed, CEO of WaveDivision Capital.

Steven Weed, CEO of WaveDivision Capital.

EVERETT — Last year, Steve Weed, then the CEO of Wave Broadband, sold the Kirkland-based company that he founded in 2003 for $2.36 billion.

The buyer, TPG Capital, is one of the largest private equity firms in the world, according to financial experts.

But the sale of the company didn’t sever Weed’s ties to telecommunications.

As CEO of WaveDivision Capital, a private equity firm he launched in 2003, Weed has continued to invest in broadband providers.

Now he’s about to jump back into the local broadband scene.

Kirkland-based WaveDivision and Searchlight Capital Partners, which has offices in New York, Toronto and London, announced last week they’re buying the Northwest operations of Frontier Communications for $1.36 billion.

“Our plan is to invest further in our markets, specifically by extending fiber to more homes and businesses, to bring them the high speeds they want,” Weed said in a news release.

Beyond that written announcement last week, WaveDivision declined to comment or elaborate “due to regulatory requirements,” a company spokesman said.

Weed’s company is buying what was once the Everett area’s legacy landline telephone company.

Today, Frontier Communications offers television and internet services in addition to phone service. But the origin of the business, two owners ago, was General Telephone & Electronics Corp., the largest independent phone company during the days of the massive Bell Telephone system, when landline telephone service was a regulated monopoly.

General Telephone eventually changed its name to GTE. GTE Northwest, which served Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, was founded in 1964 as one of GTE Corp.’s operating companies.

Deregulation eventually freed telephone providers and cable TV companies to compete and provide the full range of telecommunications — TV, internet, landline phone and cellular service. In 2000, Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE merged to become Verizon Communications.

In 2010, Verizon sold its landline phone assets to Frontier Communications.

Today Frontier serves about 156,000 residential and business customers in Washington and another 194,000 in Oregon, Idaho and Montana, according to the Washington Public Utilities and Transportation Commission. In Washington, Frontier serves customers in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties and eastern portions of the state.

The company’s Western Washington headquarters is in Everett, in a building GTE had built in 1981 at 1800 41st St. In 2018, Frontier employed about 590 here.

Frontier sold the building in 2012 but still occupies the north tower. (The Daily Herald and its parent, Sound Publishing, leases part of the third floor of the south tower.)

For Frontier, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, the cash deal with Weed’s company helps reduce debt. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year and is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Frontier said it will continue to operate the business and serve customers with existing products and services until the transaction closes.

WaveDivision said no immediate changes are planned that would affect customers or regional Frontier employees.

WaveDivision has investments in telecom companies all over North America. They include Hargray Communications in South Carolina; Metronet Communications in Evansville, Indiana; and RCN/Wave/Grande, serving parts of Massachusetts, Chicago, Pennsylvania, New York City, Washington, D.C., Texas, Washington, Oregon and California; and Xplornet based in New Brunswick, Canada.

WaveDivision’s managing directors include former Wave Broadband executives Harold Zeitz and Wayne Schattenkerk.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Near-death experience planted seeds for downtown Everett toy store

Former attorney Tom Harrison survived 9/11. It caused him to ask what’s important in life. Today, he runs MyMyToyStore.

Sean Jones, membership executive of Everett's Freedom Boat Club, helps club member Carolyn Duncan load equipment onto her boat before she and a friend head out crabbing onThursday, Aug. 11, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New Everett franchise offers boats at Everett Marina

Freedom Boat Club’s newest Washington location is in Everett, with six boats available to its members.

Devin Ryan, left to right, talks with Donald Whitley and Drew Yager before a test ride at Bicycle Centres Wednesday in Everett, Washington on August 24, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
New hands take the handlebars for Bicycle Centres

Longtime employees Devin Ryan, Aron Chaudiere and Ryan Brown bought the business that’s been around since 1976.

A truck drives past a sign displaying fuel prices on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Diesel prices stay high for truckers, farmers

Gas prices have fallen steadily this summer, but diesel costs have started to climb again.

FILE - Test engineer Jacob Wilcox pulls his arm out of a glove box used for processing sodium at TerraPower, a company developing and building small nuclear reactors, Jan. 13, 2022, in Everett, Wash. A major economic bill headed to the president has “game-changing” incentives for the nuclear energy industry, experts say, and those tax credits are even more substantial if a facility is sited in a community where a coal plant is closing. Bill Gates' company, TerraPower, plans to build an advanced, nontraditional nuclear reactor and employ workers from a local coal-fired power plant scheduled to close soon. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Everett nuclear research facility gets $750 million infusion

Bellevue’s TerraPower, which operates an Everett facility, got a hefty investment to fund research.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business briefs: Leadership Snohomish County names new executive director

Plus a new short-term, career programs at Edmonds College, state grants for small businesses and more.

Tim Leonard, owner of the Machine Shop, is closing the arcade this fall. (Photo by David Welton)
Arcade owner to pull plug on beloved Whidbey Island business

Tim Leonard, owner of the Machine Shop in Langley, recently decided he’ll call it quits this fall.

Jennifer Sadinsky is the owner of Grayhorse Mercantile, one of Langley’s newest stores. (David Welton)
Shopkeeper brings taste of Europe to Whidbey Island

A first-time business owner’s dream of opening a cheese shop became a reality this year.

Toggle’s Bottle Shop is closed permanently on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Citing landlord dispute, Toggle’s closes in downtown Everett

The popular taproom shuttered Sunday. “Everett needs a cooperative landlord-tenant relationship in the commercial district,” a co-owner said.

The Think Tank Cowork building located in Everett's historic downtown district has been beautifully preserved and updated.
Bridge the work and work-from-home divide with Coworking

Shared workspace in Downtown Everett offers the amenities you want + flexible packages

Rick Winter (left) and Gary Yang, the founders of the former UniEnergy Technologies, stand with one their latest batteries, the Reflex, August 10, 2022. (Dan DeLong/InvestigateWest)
‘Chaotic mess’: Clean energy promises imploded at Mukilteo battery maker

UniEnergy Technologies absorbed millions in public funds, then suddenly went dark. The company is accused of providing tech to China.

Eviation's all-electric plane in flight Tuesday morning in Moses Lake, Washington, on Sept. 27, 2022. (Eviation)
Arlington’s all-electric plane, Alice, takes first test flight

Eviation Aircraft’s battery-powered plane logs successful first flight from Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake.