State regulators signed off Thursday on the sale of the high-speed broadband company Greenlight Networks to billionaire businessman and philanthropist Tom Golisano.
The deal would give Golisano, through his Grand Oaks GLN LLC of Pittsford, a controlling equity interest in Greenlight, while providing the Rochester company with the necessary capital and managerial services to pay down debts and invest in its fiber network and facilities.
“In today’s economy, high-speed broadband access is a necessity, not a luxury,” said John B. Rhodes, chairman of the state's Public Service Commission, which approved the deal.
Greenlight and Grand Oaks had sought expedited approval of their plan, filing their initial paperwork with the commission last month. In those filings, Greenlight officials said the company was at "a critical juncture," citing the competitive telecommunications market and an immediate need for working capital to secure outside investors and complete its network expansion.
Greenlight launched in 2011-12, providing an alternative to Charter/Spectrum and Frontier Communications in eastern Monroe County.
The company's buildout has been incremental, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, based in part on interest. With the infusion of money from Golisano, that work should accelerate — allowing the company not just to keep up with local demands, but also potentially expand into other parts of the state, according to a statement from the state commission.
In approving the plan, regulators noted the state's ongoing commitment to ensure broadband access to all New Yorkers.
New York's downstate urban areas have excellent broadband coverage, while rural areas tend to lag behind. Back in 2015, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a $500 million initiative to close the gap, recently announcing a third and final round of awards including $2.6 million in the Finger Lakes.
As of last year, 74 percent of the state had access to broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps or faster.