After that trip through Chapter 11 two years ago they're still a bit behind their fellows, but FairPoint Communications (news, filings) has been working hard to catch up on multiple fronts. Yesterday they detailed their progress and future plans for building out Fiber-to-the-Tower to support growing wireless data demands, following up on their planned investments they discussed a year and a half ago.
At the end of 2012, Farpoint says it now has more than 950 wireless connection points on its fiber backhaul infrastructure. During 2013 they plan to increase that by 39% to 1,300 based on currently signed contracts. It should be noted that these connection points are not towers themselves, but virtual Ethernet pipes. The actual number of towers on-net is expected to reach about 1,000 by year's end across their northern New England territory, which is more than 60% of the towers served in the region as I recall.
The fiber-to-the-tower movement has been gaining traction amongst the more rural ILECs. Both CenturyLink and Windstream have been explicitly discussing similar buildout plans although across much wider territories of course. Clearly the economics have evolved to the point of mainstream adoption for at least a subset of the towers out there.
With no major metro areas, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have never drawn as much competitive infrastructure buildouts and are relatively remote in terms of internet geography. That means Fairpoint may have a mostly rural footprint in upper New England, but they still don't have a lot of direct competition to worry about beyond the outskirts of a few Tier 2/3/4 metro areas.
That may change in the years ahead though, with the Sidera/Lightower deal bringing a larger competitor into the game with the resources to challenge them more directly and other efforts like Maine's 3-Ring Binder project as well. Best for Fairpoint to start getting its towers on-net now rather than wait for someone to do it for them.