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|Predecessor||Worldwide Fiber, Inc.
Pacific Fiber Link
|Founded||Seattle, Washington (1998)|
|Founder||Jerry Tharp, David Lede, Clifford Lede|
360networks was a wholesale telecommunications carrier based in Seattle, Washington. The 360networks group's assets and operations were sold to the Zayo Group on December 1, 2011, and no longer exists as an operating telecommunications company.
360networks, though not widely known due to its concentration in the wholesale market only, was an original pioneer of the fiber optic telecommunications industry. 360networks was originally known as Pacific Fiber Link, L.L.C. and was incorporated on February 5, 1998, and officially commenced business operations on May 31, 1998, but originated as the telecommunications division of Ledcor Industries of Canada, known as Ledcor Communications, Inc.
At the time, Ledcor Communications, Inc., was the 12-year-old division, then subsidiary of Ledcor Industries, now Ledcor Group of Companies, which was a 55-year-old, privately owned, industrial and infrastructure development and construction company. Run by the Lede brothers, David and Clifford Lede, Ledcor consummated its first telecommunications project in the early 1980s, with Bell Canada, managing the company's fiber optic network migration.
As the fiber optic telecommunications industry boomed, one of the greatest impediments to rapid growth for the telecoms was the acquisition of the rights of way within which to lay the fiber optic cables. The Ledes came up with a solution to this problem and negotiated a deal with the Canadian National Railway to install the cable in the railroad's rights of way alongside the tracks.
360networks (then known as Pacific Fiber Link, and subsequently Worldwide Fiber) and Ledcor made significant contributions to the linear construction industry by inventing and patenting the Railplow, that is mounted on a flatbed railcar and used to rapidly excavate a trench alongside railroad tracks, install conduits used for housing fiber optic cables, then backfilling the trench and completing the construction and installation process within a very short span of time. This new technology enabled 360networks to rapidly lay out a North American fiber optic network throughout Canada and the United States along and within numerous railroad rights of way. The patent for the railplow was transferred to a subsidiary of the two companies and 360networks received a royalty-free, exclusive license for the use of the railplow, giving it a significant advantage over some of its competitors that also utilized rail corridors.
Initially, Pacific Fiber Link focused on building a fiber optic route from Seattle to Sacramento, but in 1999 changed its name to World Wide Fiber and its focus toward a global network. Not long thereafter, with much anticipation amongst company employees, the company again changed its name to various nuances of 360 and 360networks, to better describe its 360-degree focus on a global network. Greg Maffei, the former Chief Financial Officer of Microsoft, was brought on board to direct the company's new global focus and soon thereafter went public in an initial public offering in the Spring of 2000.
The company raised about $1.4 billion in its initial public offering, which funded the company's expansion. It also financed a new headquarters at Interlocken, the new, high tech real estate development located on Highway 36, between Denver and Boulder, Colorado, whose other local high tech tenants included the likes of Level 3, XO Communications, Sun Microsystems, and the Infrastructure Realty Trust.
From its initial beginning up until it had to file for bankruptcy protection and reorganization in 2001, the company had developed many long-haul fiber optic routes, primarily along numerous railroad rights of way, consisting of both dark fiber and lit fiber. These long-haul routes included Chicago to New Orleans, Chicago to Denver, Chicago to Detroit, Chicago to New York, Seattle to Los Angeles, Denver to San Francisco, and many others. Other route construction was occurring in Canada, Europe, and in South America, along with the laying of submarine cables to link the continents. There were many other routes in progress and planned when the company succumbed to the telecom industry collapse. The final long-haul route the company developed, post petition, was a joint project with Time Warner Telecom between Sacramento and Ontario, California, with a long-haul lateral extending this route to the San Francisco Bay Area, which was completed in early 2002.
In June 2001, only about one year after it had issued its first shares to the public, and approximately $2 billion in debt, 360networks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in the United States and its equivalent under the laws of Canada for its Canadian entities, due to macroeconomic circumstances.[clarification needed] The high tech economy, having just endured the dot com bubble burst, now was faced with a telecommunications industry collapse, something 360's former CEO Greg Maffei, dubbed as the "Telecom Nuclear Winter". The economic law of supply and demand had caught up with the industry and there was far more fiber optic bandwidth available than demand.
360networks was one of the first telecoms to file for bankruptcy reorganization and was one of the first to emerge. Although the vast majority of companies that reorganize in Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, as a "debtor-in-possession", ultimately fail in the years subsequent to emerging from bankruptcy protection, 360networks not only survived but was able to grow and expand, both through accretive acquisitions and from organic sales growth, and ultimately survived until it was sold to the Zayo Group in late 2011.
In 2002, billionaire investor and turnaround specialist Wilbur Ross bought 13% of 360's debt securities and 10% of 360's equity securities upon its emergence from bankruptcy, providing the company with a new infusion of cash, and another strategic thinker.
Recovery and expansion era
Fresh out of bankruptcy and with a clean balance sheet, 360networks' management knew that it would be difficult to grow the company organically in such an economic environment where there was simply too much supply. Instead, the company turned its focus on accretive acquisitions, focusing on assets that could be purchased for pennies on the dollar from numerous telecom bankruptcy estates.
Several transactions involved the likes of Dynegy and its United States fiber optic footprint, and Group Telecom of Canada. Finally, 360 sold many of its non-core, non-strategic assets to Bell Canada. The company finally hit the jackpot[clarification needed] though, when it descended on a dramatic bankruptcy story being played out in Butte, Montana, a seemingly unlikely place[according to whom?] for an advanced telecommunications industry, with a telecommunications company known as Touch America, where local citizens had threatened to hang one or more of its officers in true 1800s Western style.
During the late 1980s and 1990s, Montana Power, a century-old electric power company with a colorful history, decided that it should divest itself of its electric legacy and instead dive in the deep end of the telecom pool. Touch America was born of this endeavor, but as the decision makers carrying out this new endeavor looked like genius, the business cycle struck, and the telecom "nuclear winter" sent Touch America into bankruptcy. Montana Power, whom so many relied on for pensions and dividend checks, was no more; its assets were eventually purchased by Northwestern Energy.
With the local Butte economy devastated by its two largest employers, Touch America and Montana Power, 360networks arrived on the scene to buy out most of Touch America's assets. It also retained many of its employees as well as many of its offices in downtown Butte. The Touch America footprint enabled 360networks to expand its lit network operations by another 17,000 miles (27,000 km) throughout the western United States. Subsequent to that strategic acquisition, that provided 360networks with debt-free cashflow, 360 began to grow and as the telecom economy improved it grew even more so. By the time 360 was sold to Zayo in 2011, it was debt free and worth about $350 million with $50 million cash, in the bank.
- Edgar-Securities and Exchange Commission
- The Denver Post
- Connected Planet,
- Interviews with Employees
"Once Around, Why 360networks Still Puts Faith In Fiber", Connected Planet article, circa 2002.