Kurt Van Wagenen, President and Chief Executive Officer at FirstLight, joins host Craig Corbin on an episode of Broadband Universe, a podcast which explores news and dives into the stories of people in the communications industry. On this podcast episode, the pair discuss FirstLight’s movements and growth over the past few years, including recent expansions made by FirstLight.


FirstLight, a Northeast and mid-Atlantic US network provider and operator, is headquartered in Albany, NY. FirstLight owns and operates over 25,000 fiber route miles throughout the regions it serves, with nearly 10,000 in its home state, New York, alone. In this podcast episode, Kurt Van Wagenen details FirstLight’s recent expansion in the Empire State. Throughout 2022, FirstLight constructed 1700 new route miles of fiber throughout New York, which expanded upon the company’s already 8000 miles of fiber in the state. FirstLight’s extensive fiber network serves thousands of organizations and communities, including those located in underserved areas, across the state.

Craig Corbin, host of Broadband Universe, notes the many challenges and difficulties that come with construction in parts of New York, including such obstacles as the physical geography and weather. Key to FirstLight’s fiber builds is an in-house construction team. Van Wagenen stresses his pleasure with this excellent practice, and is pleased with the efficiency and consistency its workforce displays to meet such lofty goals. For example, Van Wagenen mentions, despite the challenges presented by pandemic, FirstLight’s team produced its biggest build year to date during those trying times, demonstrating the company’s extensive care, planning, and execution of its fiber projects.


FirstLight’s network footprint spans six states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, those being Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. FirstLight’s largest presence is New York state, as its capital, Albany, is home to FirstLight’s headquarters. However, key to FirstLight’s success throughout its footprint, Van Wagenen explains, is a local presence along its network. FirstLight maintains local headquarters in each market it serves to ensure that the company has an understanding of what the local needs are and can react swiftly to any changes that need to be made.

Additionally, with fifteen data centers providing colocation and wholesale, FirstLight stands out amongst other operators by bundling network and data center services. Through this, FirstLight  creates a one-stop shop for digital infrastructure. Van Wagenen explains that with this kind of holistic demand for a full suite of services, FirstLight further enhances its offerings through a deep partnership program to broaden its portfolio, especially in Tier II and III markets. While FirstLight alone can provide network, data center, security, and other services, partners and vendors allow FirstLight to ensure all customer needs are met.


Finally, Corbin asks Van Wagenen where he sees FirstLight and the industry as a whole headed through the next few years and beyond. Van Wagenen shares his excitement for this fast-growing, dynamic industry with huge growth potential. With growth, he notes, scale is important in terms of both credibility and size, with consolidation often occurring within the industry. 

Looking at 2023, FirstLight applied for stimulus funding programs through middle market grants in each of the six states it serves. The first round of this stimulus comes at the beginning of the year, expected around March of 2023. If accepted, FirstLight plans to utilize these broadband grants to further its mission in reaching underserved and unserved communities throughout its footprint. Van Wagenen states, “there is no greater time… or need” than for broadband services in these underserved areas, especially in light of the pandemic. Broadband has become an essential service with recent surges of at-home working and the expansions of telemedicine. In such communities, FirstLight leverages its fiber to reach residential customers and wholesale customers who then bring the fiber to residences. 

With much on the horizon and a growing fiber network, FirstLight is ready to continue its exciting growth and serve many Northeast and Mid-Atlantic communities, enterprises, healthcare providers, and much more.

To view the full podcast, visit Broadband Universe on YouTube.

To learn more about FirstLight, please visit https://www.firstlight.net/.