WOW! cable to leave Columbus, to be replaced by Atlantic Broadband

Jim Weiker
The Columbus Dispatch
WOW is selling its Columbus and Cleveland markets to the Canadian company Atlantic Broadband.

The cable provider WOW! has sold its Columbus and Cleveland markets to the Canadian company Atlantic Broadband.

WOW!, based outside Denver, sold the two markets for $1.125 billion. The deals are expected to close in the second half of the year.

WOW!'s customers will become Atlantic Broadband customers. 

"For WOW!’s customers in the Cleveland and Columbus markets, Atlantic Broadband is committed to delivering exceptional service and to ensuring a smooth transition," WOW said in a news release announcing the deal.

"Until the close of the transaction, which is expected in the second half of the year, customers should see no changes to their high-speed data, cable or telephone services," the news release continued.

WOW! serves about 196,000 internet, 61,000 video and 35,000 telephone customers in the Columbus and Cleveland markets, according to Atlantic Broadband, a Massachusetts-based subsidiary of Cogeco Communications of Montreal. The Columbus and Cleveland markets generated $244 million in revenue for the year ending March 31.

"The acquisition of WOW's Ohio broadband systems allows us to add significant scale to our growing and profitable U.S. broadband business," Philippe Jetté, president and CEO of Cogeco Communications, said in a news release.  

"The acquisition also represents a strong strategic fit for Cogeco Communications as it is complementary to Atlantic Broadband's existing footprint and capitalizes on its existing platform."

Atlantic Broadband serves 11 states including Pennsylvania and West Virginia. With this acquisition, it becomes the eighth-largest cable operator in the U.S. 

Atlantic Broadband has contracted with WOW! to service the Columbus and Cleveland markets for the next 12 to 18 months, the company said. Social media sites such as Facebook and Reddit have been peppered with comments about WOW!'s Columbus-area service this year, with users complaining of spotty Internet connections and poor repair responses. 

Atlantic Broadband plans to spend $82 million upgrading service in the Columbus and Cleveland areas, Jetté and Atlantic Broadband President Frank van der Post said in a Wednesday conference call discussing the purchase. 

"We think we can effectively compete here … with the investments we will be making in the network, with higher speeds, more reliability and (to) offer more IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) services," van der Post said.

WOW!'s departure adds another change to the Columbus internet and cable landscape, which has been largely shared among WOW!, Spectrum and AT&T. This summer, the provider Starry Internet entered the market, offering high-speed internet with no contract for $50 a month.

WOW! also sold markets in Chicago, Evansville, Indiana, and Anne Arundel, Maryland, to Astound Broadband for an additional $661 million. WOW! will use proceeds from the sale to reduce debt.

“The substantial proceeds from these transactions reflect the attractiveness of our assets and the clear opportunity to expand our position as a trusted provider of reliable, accessible and fast broadband solutions," WOW! CEO Teresa Elder said in a news release.

"The divestiture of these markets will enable us to reduce our debt as we continue to execute our broadband-first strategy."