Browning Exchange Update

Siyeh Communications (SiyCom) has recently completed its purchase of the Browning Telephone/Internet Exchange from 3 Rivers Communications. This transaction represents the culmination of discussions and negotiations that began in 2016 after the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council authorized Siyeh Corporation to negotiate with 3 Rivers for the purchase of the Browning Exchange.  Charlesmead Advisors, LLC, served as exclusive advisor to 3 Rivers on the transaction.

In 2018, Siyeh Corporation created a Utility Division and chartered Siyeh Communications as a nonprofit telecommunications utility of the Tribe. The Utility Division has adopted Standards of Service that specify operating principles, customer rights, billing practices, and a dispute resolution process.

The parties completed their negotiations for SiyCom to acquire the Browning Exchange, and signed a purchase agreement on December 10, 2019. The signing of the purchase agreement initiated a year-long process to gain necessary approvals from state and federal regulators which resulted in a release of favorable orders from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“This purchase is a major step in the exercise of the Blackfeet Tribe’s sovereign rights,” said Tribal Chairman Tim Davis. “It gives the Tribe a level of control necessary to prioritize and develop modern telecommunications technology on the Blackfeet Reservation, especially during a pandemic,” said the Chairman.

Existing communications services will continue to run over the same network 3 Rivers has maintained since 1982. After a transitional period, SiyCom will take over all billing, customer service, network maintenance and technical support.

SiyCom plans to replace all copper phone lines with high-capacity fiber-optic lines.  Electronics throughout the exchange will be upgraded and eventually new equipment will be installed at each customer location.  This state-of-the-art technology, known as “fiber-to-the-home” or FTTH, offers greater broadband performance than copper technologies, and should enable SiyCom to support increasing customer demands for faster broadband service for current and future use.

“As a cooperative, we are always trying to find the best way to bring superior telecommunications to our members,” said Dave Gibson, General Manager of the Cooperative. “As a tribal entity, we think Siyeh Communications will be best positioned to focus on just the Browning Exchange residents and quite possibly access funding sources that are not available to a non-tribal company like 3 Rivers,” said Gibson.

The estimated cost to upgrade the exchange is approximately $20 million, and the upgrades will likely take up to 10 years to complete.  The Siyeh Utility Division will have ongoing oversight of SiyCom’s operations and SiyCom will be subject to strict service deployment requirements and service performance standards imposed by the FCC.

Dennis Fitzpatrick, CEO of Siyeh Corporation stated, “The acquisition supports the Tribe’s commitment to providing its reservation communities with access to high quality telecommunication services. We are excited the sale is complete. We can now shift our attention to managing operations and deploying services on the Blackfeet Reservation.”