Document
 
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D. C. 20549
FORM 10-K
(Mark One)
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
 
For the fiscal year ended December 31,2018
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
 
For the transition period from__________ to __________
 
Commission File No.: 000-09881
http://api.tenkwizard.com/cgi/image?quest=1&rid=23&ipage=12746333&doc=34
SHENANDOAH TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANY
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
VIRGINIA
 
54-1162807
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
 
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
500 Shentel Way, Edinburg, Virginia
 
22824
(Address of principal executive offices)
 
(Zip Code)
(540) 984-4141  (Registrant's telephone number, including area code) 
 
SECURITIES REGISTERED PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(B) OF THE ACT:
 
 
Common Stock (No Par Value)
NASDAQ Global Select Market
 
(Title of Class)
(Name of Exchange on which Registered)

SECURITIES REGISTERED PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(G) OF THE ACT: NONE

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.  Yes ☑    No  ☐

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Exchange Act.  Yes ☐  No  ☑

Note - Checking the box above will not relieve any registrant required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Exchange Act from their obligations under those Sections.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.  Yes ☑    No ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes ☑    No ☐

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§ 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company.  See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.                     Large accelerated filer ☑           Accelerated filer ☐             Non-accelerated filer ☐            Smaller reporting company ☐

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).  Yes ☐    No  ☑

The aggregate market value of the registrant’s voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant at June 30, 2018 based on the closing price of such stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on such date was approximately $1.6 billion.

The number of shares of the registrant’s common stock outstanding on February 22, 2019 was 49,830,871.
 
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement relating to its 2019 annual meeting of shareholders (the “2019 Proxy Statement”) are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K where indicated.  The 2019 Proxy Statement will be filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year to which this report relates.
 



 
SHENANDOAH TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANY
 
 
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
Item
Number
 
Page
Number
 
 
 
 
PART I
 
 
 
 
1.
1A.
1B.
2.
3.
4.
 
 
 
 
PART II
 
 
 
 
5.
6.
7.
7A.
8.
9.
9A.
9B.
 
 
 
 
PART III
 
 
 
 
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
 
 
 
 
PART IV
 
 
 
 
15.




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PART I

Some of the information contained in this report concerning the markets and industry in which we operate is derived from publicly available information and from industry sources.  Although we believe that this publicly available information and the information provided by these industry sources are reliable, we have not independently verified the accuracy of any of this information.

Unless we indicate otherwise, references in this report to “we,” “us,” “our,” “Shentel” and “the Company” means Shenandoah Telecommunications Company and its subsidiaries.

ITEM 1.
BUSINESS

Our Company

Shenandoah Telecommunications Company and its subsidiaries (collectively, the “Company”) provide wireless personal communications service (“PCS”) under the Sprint brands, and telephone service, cable television, unregulated communications equipment sales and services, and internet access under the Shentel brand.  In addition, the Company operates an interstate fiber optic network and leases its owned cell site towers to both affiliates and non-affiliated third-party wireless service providers. The Company’s reportable segments include: Wireless, Cable, Wireline and Other. See Note 17, Segment Reporting, in our consolidated financial statements for further information.

Pursuant to an agreement with Sprint and its related parties (collectively, “Sprint”), the Company has been the exclusive Sprint PCS Affiliate providing wireless mobility communications network products and services on the 800 megahertz (MHz), 1900 MHz and 2.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum ranges in a multi-state area covering large portions of central and western Virginia, south-central Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and portions of Maryland, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio. The Company is licensed to use the Sprint brand name in this territory, and operates its network under Sprint's radio spectrum licenses.

Description of Business

Wireless

Since 1995, the Wireless operations have provided personal communications services over a digital wireless telephone and data network through an agreement with Sprint. The Company currently provides service in a multi-state area covering large portions of central and western Virginia, south-central Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and portions of Maryland, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio ("Sprint Affiliate Area").  The current Sprint Affiliate Area covers approximately 6.1 million POPS ("Covered POPS").  In the Sprint Affiliate Area, the Company is the exclusive provider of the Sprint-branded wireless services using the 800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum ranges.  The Company provided network service to 795,176 postpaid Sprint PCS subscribers at December 31, 2018, representing an increase of 8.0% compared with December 31, 2017.  The Company provided service to 258,704 prepaid Sprint PCS subscribers at December 31, 2018, representing an increase of 14.6% compared to December 31, 2017. Of the Company’s total consolidated operating revenues, approximately 68% in 2018, 72% in 2017 and 69% in 2016 were generated by or through Sprint and its customers using the Company's portion of Sprint’s nationwide network. 

Sprint provides the Company significant support services, such as customer service, billing, collections, long distance, national network operations support, inventory logistics support, use of the Sprint brand names, national advertising, national distribution and product development.

The Company’s wireless revenue is variable based on billed revenues to Sprint’s customers in the Sprint Affiliate Area less applicable fees retained by Sprint. Sprint retains an 8% Management Fee and an 8.6% Net Service Fee on postpaid revenues and a 6% Management Fee on prepaid wireless revenues. The Company is also charged for the costs of subsidized handsets sold through Sprint’s national channels as well as commissions paid by Sprint to third-party postpaid resellers in our service territory.  Sprint also charges the Company separately to acquire and support prepaid customers.  These charges are calculated based on Sprint’s national averages for its prepaid programs, and are billed per user or per gross additional customer, as appropriate.



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Effective January 1, 2016, the Company amended its agreement with Sprint, and Sprint agreed to waive the Management Fees charged on both postpaid and prepaid revenues, up to approximately $4.2 million per month, until the total amount waived reaches approximately $255.6 million, which is expected to occur in 2022.

Cable

The Cable operations provide video, broadband and voice services to customers in franchise areas covering portions of Virginia, West Virginia, and western Maryland, and leases fiber optic facilities throughout its service area. Most of these markets served in the Cable operations are connected by a fiber network of 3,514 miles, which interconnects with the Wireline operations' 2,127 mile fiber network.

There were 135,145 cable revenue generating units at December 31, 2018, an increase of 1.5% compared with December 31, 2017.  A revenue generating unit consists of each separate service (video, broadband and voice) subscribed to by a customer.

Wireline

The Wireline operations provide regulated and unregulated voice services, internet broadband, long distance access services, and leases fiber optic facilities throughout portions of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. This fiber optic network connects to and supports the Company’s Wireless operations. The Company leases fiber optic capacity from this network to third parties.

Wireline provided local telephone services to 19,131 customers, primarily in Virginia, as of December 31, 2018.  The Wireline operations provide access for interexchange carriers to the local exchange network and switching for voice products offered through the Cable segment.  Wireline has a 20 percent ownership interest in Valley Network Partnership (“ValleyNet”), which offers fiber network facility capacity to business customers and other telecommunications providers throughout portions of Virginia.

The Wireline operations also provided video services to 4,742 customers and broadband services to 14,464 customers through its own coaxial network, located in Shenandoah County, Virginia, as of December 31, 2018

Other

Other provides investing and management services to the Company's subsidiaries.

Competition

The telecommunications industry is highly competitive.  We compete primarily on the basis of the price, availability, reliability, variety and quality of our offerings and on the quality of our customer service.  Our ability to compete effectively depends on our ability to maintain high-quality services at prices competitive with those charged by our competitors.  In particular, price competition in the integrated telecommunications services markets generally has been intense and is expected to continue.  Our competitors include, among others, larger providers such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., T-Mobile USA, Inc., U.S. Cellular Corp., CenturyLink, Inc., Frontier Communications Corp., DISH Network Corporation, DIRECTV, and various other smaller competitive service providers.  Our primary competitors have substantially greater infrastructure, financial, personnel, technical, marketing and other resources, larger numbers of established customers and more prominent name recognition than the Company.

Competition is intense in the wireless communications industry.  Competition has caused the market prices for wireless products and services to decrease. This has resulted in some carriers introducing pricing plans that are structurally different and often more aggressively priced than in the past. Wireless providers are upgrading their wireless services to better accommodate real-time and downloadable audio and video content as well as Internet browsing capabilities and other services. Our ability to compete effectively will depend, in part, on our ability to anticipate and respond to various competitive factors affecting the wireless industry.

In our cable operations where we provide video services, we also compete in the provision of telephone and broadband services against the incumbent local telephone company.  Incumbent local telephone carriers enjoy substantial competitive advantages arising from their historical monopoly position in the local telephone market, including pre-existing customer relationships with virtually all end-users.

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Competition is also intense and growing in the market for video services. Incumbent cable television companies, which have historically provided video service, face competition from direct broadcast satellite providers, on-line video services, such as NetFlix, Hulu, and Amazon, and from large wireline providers of telecommunications services (such as Verizon, CenturyLink, Frontier and AT&T) which have upgraded their networks to provide video services in addition to voice and broadband services. Our ability to compete effectively will depend, in part, on the extent to which our service offerings overlap with our competitors, and on our ability to anticipate and respond to the competitive forces affecting the market for video and other services.

A continuing trend toward consolidation, mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances in the telecommunications industry could also increase the level of competition we face by further strengthening our competitors.
                             
Regulation

Our operations are subject to regulation by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), the Virginia State Corporation Commission (“VSCC”), the West Virginia Public Service Commission, the Maryland Public Service Commission, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the Kentucky Public Service Commission and other federal, state, and local governmental agencies.  The laws governing these agencies, and the regulations and policies that they administer, are subject to constant review and revision, and some of these changes could have material impacts on our revenues and expenses.

Regulation of Wireless Operations

We operate our wireless business using radio spectrum made available by Sprint under the Sprint Management Agreement.  Our wireless business is directly or indirectly subject to, or affected by, a number of regulations and requirements of the FCC and other governmental authorities that apply to providers of commercial mobile radio services (“CMRS”).

Interconnection. Federal law and FCC regulations impose certain obligations on CMRS providers to interconnect their networks with other telecommunications providers (either directly or indirectly) and to enter into interconnection agreements (“ICAs”) with certain types of telecommunications providers.  Interconnection agreements typically are negotiated on a statewide basis and are subject to state approval.  If an agreement cannot be reached, in certain cases parties to interconnection negotiations involving CMRS providers can submit unresolved issues to federal or state regulators for arbitration.  In addition, FCC regulations previously required that local exchange carriers (“LECs”) and CMRS providers establish reciprocal compensation arrangements for the termination of traffic to one another.  Disputes regarding intercarrier compensation can be brought in a number of forums (depending on the nature and jurisdiction of the dispute) including state public utility commissions (“PUCs”), FCC and the courts.  The Company does not presently have any material interconnection or intercarrier compensation disputes with respect to its wireless operations.

On October 27, 2011, the FCC adopted a report and order which comprehensively reformed and modernized the agency’s intercarrier compensation (“ICC”) rules governing the telecommunications industry.  Under the current FCC regime, since December 29, 2011, local traffic between CMRS providers and most LECs must be compensated pursuant to a default bill-and-keep framework if there was no pre-existing agreement between the CMRS provider and the LEC.  A federal appeals court has affirmed the FCC’s report and order.  Additionally, the FCC is considering a number of petitions for declaratory ruling and other proceedings regarding disputes among carriers relating to interconnection payment obligations.  During 2017 the FCC initiated a further proceeding to consider whether additional changes to interconnection obligations are needed, including how and where companies interconnect their networks with the networks of other providers. Resolution of these proceedings and any additional FCC rules regarding interconnection could directly affect us in the future.  Interconnection costs represent a significant expense item for us and any significant changes in the intercarrier compensation scheme may have a material impact on our business.  We are unable to determine with any certainty at this time whether any such changes would be beneficial to or detrimental to our wireless operations.

On December 18, 2014, the FCC issued a declaratory ruling which provides additional guidance concerning how the agency will evaluate the reasonableness of data roaming agreements.  The agency clarified that it will consider the reasonableness of data roaming rates based upon, in part, whether such rates exceed retail, international and resale rates, as well as how such rates compare to other providers’ rates.  The ruling also clarifies other aspects of the FCC’s 2011 data roaming order concerning the appropriate presumptions applied to certain contract terms and the inclusion

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of build-out terms when considering the reasonableness of roaming rates and terms.  The ruling is expected to provide improved negotiating leverage to Sprint, and other providers, in negotiating new data roaming agreements with AT&T and Verizon.   It is unclear whether such leverage will result in lower data roaming rates for Sprint, or whether such reduced rates will accrue to the benefit of our operations.  There is also a possibility that the ruling could provide a basis for smaller wireless providers to seek more beneficial terms in their roaming agreements with Sprint, which may impact roaming costs in our territory.

Universal Service Contribution Requirements. Consistent with the terms of our Management Agreement, Sprint is required to contribute to the federal universal service fund (the “USF”) based in part on the revenues it earns in connection with our wireless operations. The purpose of this fund is to subsidize telecommunications and broadband services in rural areas, for low-income consumers and for schools, libraries and rural healthcare facilities.  Sprint is permitted to, and does, pass through these mandated payments as surcharges paid by its subscribers.

Transfers, Assignments and Changes of Control of Spectrum Licenses.  The FCC must give prior approval to the assignment of ownership or control of a spectrum license, as well as transfers involving substantial changes in such ownership or control.  The FCC also requires licensees to maintain effective working control over their licenses.  Our Sprint Affiliate Agreement reflects an alliance that the parties believe meets the FCC requirements for licensee control of licensed spectrum.  If the FCC were to determine that the Sprint Affiliate Agreement should be modified to increase the level of licensee control, we have agreed with Sprint to use our best efforts to modify the agreement as necessary to cause the agreement to comply with applicable law and to preserve to the extent possible the economic arrangements set forth in the agreement.  If the agreement cannot be modified, the agreement may be terminated pursuant to the terms.  The FCC could also impose sanctions on the Company for failure to meet these requirements.

Spectrum licenses are granted for ten-year terms.  Sprint’s spectrum licenses for our service area are scheduled to expire on various dates throughout the term of our Sprint Affiliate Agreements.  Pursuant to recently adopted changes concerning wireless license renewals, spectrum licensees have an expectation of license renewal if they can satisfy three "safe harbor" certifications which, if made, will result in routine processing and grant of the license renewal application. Those certifications require the licensee to certify that it has satisfied any ongoing provision of service requirements applicable to the spectrum license, that it has not permanently discontinued operations (defined as 180 days continuously off the air), and that it has substantially complied with applicable rules and policies. If for some reason a licensee cannot meet these safe harbor requirements, it can file a detailed renewal showing based on the actual service provided by the station.  All of the PCS licenses used in our wireless business have been successfully renewed since their initial grant.

Construction and Operation of Wireless Facilities. Wireless systems must comply with certain FCC and Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) regulations regarding the registration, siting, marking, lighting and construction of transmitter towers and antennas.  The FCC also requires that aggregate radio frequency emissions from every site meet certain standards.  These regulations affect site selection for new network build-outs and may increase the costs of improving our network.  We cannot predict what impact the costs and delays from these regulations could have on our operations.

The construction of new towers, and in some cases the modification of existing towers, may also be subject to environmental review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (“NEPA”), which requires federal agencies to evaluate the environmental impacts of their decisions under some circumstances.  FCC regulations implementing NEPA place responsibility on each applicant to investigate any potential environmental effects of a proposed operation, including health effects relating to radio frequency emissions, and impacts on endangered species such as certain migratory birds, and to disclose any significant effects on the environment to the agency prior to commencing construction.  In the event that the FCC determines that a proposed tower would have a significant environmental impact, the FCC would require preparation of an environmental impact statement, which would be subject to public comment.

In addition, tower construction is subject to regulations implementing the National Historic Preservation Act.  Compliance with FAA, environmental or historic preservation requirements could significantly delay or prevent the registration or construction of a particular tower or make tower construction more costly.  On July 15, 2016, Congress enacted new tower marking requirements for certain towers located in rural areas, which may increase our operational costs. However, statutory changes adopted by Congress in the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act may ameliorate or mitigate some of those costs. In some jurisdictions, local laws or regulations may impose similar requirements.

Wireless Facilities Siting. States and localities are authorized to engage in forms of regulation, including zoning and land-use regulation, which may affect our ability to select and modify sites for wireless facilities. States and localities

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may not engage in forms of regulation that effectively prohibit the provision of wireless services, discriminate among functionally equivalent services or regulate the placement, construction or operation of wireless facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions. Courts and the FCC are routinely asked to review whether state and local zoning and land-use actions should be preempted by federal law, and the FCC also is routinely asked to consider other issues affecting wireless facilities siting in other proceedings. We cannot predict the outcome of these proceedings or the effect they may have on us.

Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.  The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (“CALEA”) was enacted in 1994 to preserve electronic surveillance capabilities by law enforcement officials in the face of rapidly changing telecommunications technology.  CALEA requires telecommunications carriers and broadband providers, including the Company, to modify their equipment, facilities and services to allow for authorized electronic surveillance based on either industry or FCC standards.  Following adoption of interim standards and a lengthy rulemaking proceeding, including an appeal and remand proceeding, all carriers were required to be in compliance with the CALEA requirements as of June 30, 2002.  The FCC extended CALEA obligations to VoIP and broadband services in 2005. We are currently in compliance with the CALEA requirements.

Local Number Portability.   All covered CMRS providers, including the Company, are required to allow wireless customers to retain their existing telephone numbers when switching from one telecommunications carrier to another.  These rules are generally referred to as wireless local number portability (“LNP”).  The future volume of any porting requests, and the processing costs related thereto, may increase our operating costs in the future. We are currently in compliance with LNP requirements.  The FCC has selected a new Local Number Portability Administrator, and the transition to a new Local Number Portability Administrator may impact our ability to manage number porting and related tasks, or may result in additional costs related to the transition.

Number Pooling.  The FCC regulates the assignment and use of telephone numbers by wireless and other telecommunications carriers to preserve numbering resources.  CMRS providers in the top 100 markets are required to be capable of sharing blocks of 10,000 numbers among themselves in subsets of 1,000 numbers (“1000s-block number pooling”); the FCC considers state requests to implement 1000s-block number pooling in smaller markets on a case-by-case basis, and has granted such requests in the past.  In addition, all CMRS carriers, including those operating outside the top 100 markets, must be able to support roaming calls on their network placed by users with pooled numbers.  Wireless carriers must also maintain detailed records of the numbers they have used, subject to audit.  The pooling requirements may impose additional costs and increase operating expenses on us and limit our access to numbering resources. We are currently in compliance with the FCC number pooling requirements.

Telecommunications Relay Services (“TRS”). Federal law requires wireless service providers to take steps to enable the hearing impaired and other disabled persons to have reasonable access to wireless services.  The FCC has adopted rules and regulations implementing this requirement to which we are subject, and requires that we pay a regulatory assessment to support such telecommunications relay services for the disabled.  The Company is in compliance with these requirements.

Consumer Privacy. The Company is subject to various federal and state laws intended to protect the privacy of end-users who subscribe to the Company’s services.  For example, the FCC has regulations that place restrictions on the permissible uses that we can make of customer-specific information, known as Customer Proprietary Network Information (“CPNI”), received from subscribers, and that govern procedures for release of such information in order to prevent identity theft schemes.  Other laws impose criminal and other penalties for the violation of certain CPNI requirements and related privacy protections.

As a result of the FCC’s December 2017 decision to reclassify broadband Internet access service as an “information service,” the FTC has the authority to enforce against unfair or deceptive acts and practices, to protect the privacy of Internet service customers, including our use and disclosure of certain customer information.

After the repeal of the FCC’s 2016 privacy rules through the Congressional Review Act, many states and local authorities have considered legislative or other actions that would impose additional restrictions on our ability to collect, use and disclose certain information. Despite language in the FCC’s December 2017 decision reclassifying broadband Internet access service as an “information service” that preempts state and local privacy regulations that conflict with federal policy, we expect these state and local efforts to regulate online privacy to continue in 2019. Additionally, several state legislatures are considering the adoption of new data security and cybersecurity legislation that could result in additional network and information security requirements for our business. There are also bills pending in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that could impose new privacy and data security obligations. We cannot predict whether

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any of these efforts will be successful or preempted, or how new legislation and regulations, if any, would affect our business

Our operations are also subject to federal and state laws governing information security.  In the event of an information security breach, such rules may require consumer and government agency notification and may result in regulatory enforcement actions with the potential of monetary forfeitures.

In addition, restrictions exist, and new restrictions are considered from time to time by Congress, federal agencies and states, on the extent to which wireless customers may receive unsolicited telemarketing calls, text messages, junk e-mail or spam.  Congress, federal agencies and certain states also are considering, and may in the future consider imposing, additional requirements on entities that possess consumer information to protect the privacy of consumers.  The Company is required to file an annual certification of compliance with the FCC’s CPNI rules.  Complying with these requirements may impose costs on the Company or compel the Company to alter the way it provides or promotes its services.

Consumer Protection.  Many members of the wireless industry, including us, have voluntarily committed to comply with the Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association ("CTIA") Consumer Code for Wireless Service, which includes consumer protection provisions regarding the content and format of bills; advance disclosures regarding rates, terms of service, contract provisions, and network coverage; and the right to terminate service after a trial period or after changes to contract provisions are implemented.  The FCC and/or certain state commissions have considered or are considering imposing additional consumer protection requirements upon wireless service providers, including billing-related disclosures and usage alerts, as well as the adoption of standards for responses to customers and limits on early termination fees.  On December 12, 2013, CTIA filed a letter with the FCC detailing voluntary commitments by large wireless providers, including Sprint, which will permit subscribers and former subscribers to unlock their mobile devices, subject to contract fulfillment time frames for postpaid plans, or after one year for prepaid plans.  The carriers have agreed to fully implement the voluntary commitments within 12 months of adoption.  Subsequently, on February 11, 2014, CTIA-The Wireless Association adopted six standards on mobile wireless device unlocking into the CTIA Consumer Code for Wireless Service.  Finally, on August 1, 2014, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act was enacted to make it easier for consumers to change their cell phone service providers without paying for a new phone.  This new statute reverses a decision made by the Library of Congress in 2012 that said it was illegal for consumers to “unlock” their cell phones for use on other networks without their service provider’s permission. Adoption of these and other similar consumer protection requirements could increase the expenses or decrease the revenue of the Company's wireless business.  Courts have also had, and in the future may continue to have, an effect on the extent to which matters pertaining to the content and format of wireless bills can be regulated at the state level.  Any further changes to these and similar requirements could increase our costs of doing business and our costs of acquiring and retaining customers.

Net Neutrality.  For information concerning the FCC’s non-discrimination requirements for wireless broadband providers, see the discussion under “Regulation of Wireline Operations - Broadband Services / Net Neutrality”.

Radio Frequency Emission from Handsets.  Some studies (and media reports) have suggested that radio frequency emissions from handsets, wireless data devices and cell sites may raise various health concerns, including cancer, and may interfere with various electronic medical devices, including hearing aids and pacemakers.  Most of the expert reviews conducted to date have concluded that the evidence does not support a finding of adverse health effects but that further research is appropriate.  Courts have dismissed a number of lawsuits filed against other wireless service operators and manufacturers, asserting claims relating to radio frequency transmissions to and from handsets and wireless data devices.  However, there can be no assurance that the outcome of other lawsuits, or general public concerns over these issues, will not have a material adverse effect on the wireless industry, including us.

Accessibility.  The FCC imposes obligations on telecommunications service providers and multi-channel video programming distributors ("MVPDs"), intended to ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to access and use telecommunications and video programming services and equipment.   FCC rules require telecommunications service providers, including wireless providers, to be capable of transmitting 911 calls from persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech disabled, including through text telephone ("TTY") capability over the public switched telephone network ("PSTN"), various forms of PSTN-based and internet protocol ("IP")-based TRS, and text-to-911 (where available).  The FCC rules allow wireless telecommunications service providers to transition to use of real time text ("RTT") in lieu of TTY technology for communications using wireless IP-based voice services. In addition, telecommunications services, including Voice over Internet Protocol ("VoIP"), and advanced communications services ("ACS") (such as email and text messaging) must be accessible to and usable by disabled persons, including by ensuring

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that email and texts are compatible with commonly used screen readers, unless doing so is not achievable.  FCC rules require that customer support for covered telecommunications and ACS services (including website based) is accessible and also imposes extensive recordkeeping for both telecommunications services and ACS, and subject providers to significant penalties for non-compliance with accessibility requirements as well as for falsely certifying compliance with recordkeeping obligations. Existing FCC rules also require us to offer a minimum number of hearing aid-compatible (“HAC”) handsets to consumers.  The FCC recently adopted rules that update technical specifications for HAC handsets and extend HAC compatibility requirements to VoIP handsets.  FCC rules also require video programming delivered on MVPD systems to be closed captioned unless exempt and require MVPDs to pass through captions to consumers and to take all steps needed to monitor and maintain equipment to ensure that captioning reaches the consumer intact. Video programming delivered over the Internet must be captioned if it was delivered previously on television with captions. An MVPD must also pass through audio description provided in broadcast and non-broadcast programming if it has the technical capability to do so, unless it is using the required technology for another purpose. FCC rules also require MVPDs to ensure that critical details about emergencies conveyed in video programming are accessible to persons with disabilities, and that video programming guides are accessible to persons who are blind or visually impaired. We cannot predict if or when additional changes will be made to the current FCC accessibility rules, or whether and how such changes will affect us.

911 Services.  We are subject to FCC rules that require wireless carriers to make emergency 911 services available to their subscribers, including enhanced 911 services that convey the caller’s telephone number and detailed location information to emergency responders.  The FCC has also sought public comment to investigate further requirements regarding the accuracy of wireless location information transmitted during an emergency 911 call.  Additionally, the FCC adopted rules requiring all wireless carriers to support the ability of consumers to send text messages to 911 in all areas of the country where 911 Public Safety Answering Points (“PSAP”) are capable of receiving text messages.  Also, in May 2013, the FCC adopted rules which require CMRS providers to provide an automatic “bounce-back” text message when a subscriber attempts to send a text message to 911 in a location where text-to-911 is not available.  In August 2014, the FCC ordered that all CMRS and interconnected text providers must be capable of supporting text-to-911 by December 31, 2014.  Such covered text providers had until June 30, 2015, to begin delivering text-to-911 messages to PSAPs that have submitted requests for such delivery by December 31, 2014, unless otherwise agreed with the PSAP, and six months to begin delivery after any such request made after December 31, 2014.  We are not able to predict the effect that these, or any other, changes to the 911 service rules will have on our operations.

Regulation of Cable Television, Interconnected VoIP and Other Video Service Operations

We provide cable services to customers in franchise areas covering portions of Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland.

The provision of cable service generally is subject to regulation by the FCC, and cable operators typically also must comply with the terms of the franchise agreement between the cable operator and the local franchising authority.  Some states, including Virginia and West Virginia, have enacted regulations and franchise provisions that also can affect certain aspects of a cable operator’s operations. Our business can be significantly impacted by changes to the existing regulatory framework, whether triggered by legislative, administrative, or judicial rulings.

Pricing and Packaging.  Federal law limits cable rate regulation solely to communities that lack “effective competition,” as defined by federal regulation.  In the absence of effective competition, federal law authorizes local franchising authorities to regulate the monthly rates charged for the minimum level of video programming service (the “basic service tier”) and for the installation, sale and lease of equipment used by end users to receive the basic service tier.  None of our local franchise authorities presently regulate our rates. Congress and the FCC from time to time have considered imposing new pricing and packaging restrictions on cable operators.  We cannot predict whether or when such new pricing and packaging restrictions may be imposed on us or what effect they would have on our ability to provide cable service.

Must-Carry/Retransmission Consent. Local broadcast television stations can require a cable operator to carry their signals pursuant to federal “must-carry” requirements. Alternatively, local television stations may require that a cable operator obtain “retransmission consent” for carriage of the station’s signal, which can enable a popular local television station to obtain concessions from the cable operator for the right to carry the station’s signal. Although some local television stations today are carried by cable operators under the must-carry obligation, popular broadcast network affiliated stations, such as ABC, CBS, FOX, CW and NBC, typically are carried pursuant to retransmission consent agreements. The retransmission consent costs charged by broadcast networks affiliate stations are increasing rapidly.

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We cannot predict the extent to which such retransmission consent costs may increase in the future or the effect such cost increases may have on our ability to provide cable service.

Copyright Fees. Cable operators pay compulsory copyright fees, in addition to possible retransmission consent fees, to retransmit broadcast programming.  Although the cable compulsory copyright license has been in place for more than 40 years, there have been legislative and regulatory proposals to modify or even replace the compulsory license with privately negotiated licenses. We cannot predict whether such proposals will be enacted and how they might affect our business.

Programming Costs.  Satellite-delivered cable programming, such as ESPN, HBO and the Discovery Channel, is not subject to must-carry/retransmission consent regulations or a compulsory copyright license.  The Company negotiates directly or through the National Cable Television Cooperative (“NCTC”) with satellite-delivered cable programmers for the right to carry their programming.  The cost of acquiring the right to carry satellite-delivered cable programming can increase as programmers demand rate increases. 

Franchise Matters. Cable operators generally must apply for and obtain non-exclusive franchises from local or state franchising authorities before providing video service.  The terms and conditions of franchises vary among jurisdictions, but franchises generally last for a fixed term and are subject to renewal, require the cable operator to collect a franchise fee of as much as 5% of the cable operator’s gross revenue from video services, and contain certain service quality and customer service obligations.  A significant number of states today have processes in place for obtaining state-wide franchises, and legislation and regulation have been introduced from time to time in Congress, the FCC, and in various states, including those in which we provide some form of video service, that would require the implementation of state-wide franchising processes, potentially lowering barriers to entry and increasing competition in the marketplace for video services.  Virginia's franchising statute largely leaves franchising responsibility in the hands of local municipalities and counties, but it governs the local government entities’ award of such franchises and their conduct of franchise negotiations.  We cannot predict the extent to which these rules and other developments will accelerate the pace of new entry into the video market or the effect, if any, they may have on our cable operations.

Leased Access/PEG. The Communications Act permits franchising authorities to require cable operators to set aside channels for public, education and governmental access (“PEG”) programming.  The Communications Act also requires certain cable systems to make available a portion of their capacity for commercial leased access by third parties.  The FCC is currently conducting proceedings that may impact commercial leased access and PEG access usage. Increases in the amount of such access usage could reduce the number of channels available to us to provide other types of programming to subscribers.

Pole Attachments. The Communications Act requires investor-owned utilities to provide cable systems with access to poles and conduits and simultaneously subjects the rates charged for this access to either federal or state regulation. In 2011 and again in 2015, the FCC amended its existing pole attachment rules to promote broadband deployment. The 2011 order allows for new penalties in certain cases involving unauthorized attachments, but generally strengthens the cable industry’s ability to access investor-owned utility poles on reasonable rates, terms and conditions. Additionally, the 2011 order reduces the federal rate formula previously applicable to “telecommunications” attachments to closely approximate the rate formula applicable to “cable” attachments. The 2015 order, which was affirmed following an appeal by utility pole owners, continues that rate reconciliation, effectively closing the remaining “loophole” that potentially allowed for significantly higher rates for telecommunications attachments in certain scenarios, and minimizing the rate consequences of any of our services being deemed “telecommunications” for pole attachment purposes. Neither the 2011 order nor the 2015 order directly affect the rate in states that self-regulate (rather than allow the FCC to regulate) pole rates, but many of those states have substantially the same rate for cable and telecommunications attachments.

In August 2018, the FCC adopted rules, scheduled to become effective thirty (30) days after Office of Management and Budget approval, to permit a "one-touch" make-ready process for poles subject to its jurisdiction. The "one touch" make-ready rules allow new attachers to alter certain components of existing attachments for "simple make-ready" (i.e. where the alteration of existing attachments does not involve a reasonable expectation of a service outage, splicing, pole replacement or relocation of a wireless attachment). The rules are intended to promote broadband deployment and competition by facilitating communications attachments, although there are concerns regarding potential damage to existing networks by third parties. Utility pole owners have appealed the rules to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. We cannot predict the effect that these rules will have on our business when they ultimately take effect.


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Broadband Services. For information concerning the regulation of Broadband services, see the related discussions under “Regulation of Wireline Operations.”

Net Neutrality.  For information concerning the FCC’s non-discrimination requirements for fixed broadband providers, see the discussion under “Regulation of Wireline Operations - Broadband Services / Net Neutrality.”

Privacy. For information concerning the privacy obligations of our Broadband service, see the discussion under “Regulation of Wireless Operations - Consumer Privacy.”

VoIP Services.  We provide voice communications services over our cable network utilizing interconnected VoIP technology and service arrangements.  Although similar to telephone service in some ways, our VoIP service arrangement utilizes different technology and is subject to many of the same rules and regulations applicable to traditional telephone service.  The FCC order adopted on October 27, 2011, established rules governing intercarrier compensation payments for the origination and termination of telephone traffic between carriers and VoIP providers. In May 2014 the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld the FCC order reducing intercarrier compensation payments.  The rules have substantially decreased intercarrier compensation payments we may have otherwise received over a multi-year period. The decreases over the multi-year transition have affected both the amounts that we pay to telecommunications carriers and the amounts that we receive from other carriers. The schedule and magnitude of these decreases, however, has varied depending on the nature of the carriers and the telephone traffic at issue. These changes have had a negative impact on our revenues and expenses for voice services at particular times over this multi-year period.

Further regulatory changes are being considered that could impact our VoIP service.  The FCC and state regulatory authorities are considering, for example, whether certain common carrier regulations traditionally applied to incumbent local exchange carriers should be modified or reduced, and the extent to which common carrier requirements should be extended to VoIP providers.  The FCC has already determined that certain providers of voice services using Internet Protocol technology must comply with requirements relating to 911 emergency services, CALEA, USF contribution, customer privacy and CPNI issues, number portability, network outage, rural call completion, disability access, battery backup, regulatory fees, and discontinuance of service.  In March 2007, a federal appeals court affirmed the FCC’s decision concerning federal regulation of certain VoIP services, but declined to specifically find that VoIP service provided by cable companies, such as we provide, should be regulated only at the federal level.  As a result, certain states, including West Virginia, began proceedings to subject cable VoIP services to state-level regulation.  Although the West Virginia proceeding concluded without any new state-level regulation, it is difficult to predict whether it, or other state regulators, will continue to attempt to regulate our VoIP service.  For example, the Minnesota PUC recently attempted to regulate another cable operator's VoIP service as a telecommunications service, although that was recently reversed by a federal appellate court. We have registered with, or obtained certificates or authorizations from, the FCC and the state regulatory authorities in those states in which we offer competitive voice services in order to ensure the continuity of our services and to maintain needed network interconnection arrangements. It is not clear how the FCC Order to reclassify wireline and wireless broadband services as Title II common carrier services, and pursuant to Section 706, will affect the regulatory status of our VoIP services.  Further, it is also unclear whether and how these and other ongoing regulatory matters ultimately will be resolved.

Prospective competitors of Shenandoah Cable Television, LLC (Shentel Cable), a subsidiary of the Company, may also receive disbursements from the USF.  Some of those competitors have requested USF support under the Connect America Fund to build broadband facilities in areas already served by Shentel Cable.  Although Shentel Cable has opposed such requests where we offer service, we cannot predict whether the FCC or another agency will grant such requests or otherwise fund broadband service in areas already served by the company.

Other Issues. Our ability to provide cable service may be affected by a wide range of additional regulatory and related issues, including FCC regulations pertaining to licensing of systems and facilities, set-top boxes, equipment compatibility, program exclusivity blackouts, advertising, public files, accessibility to persons with disabilities, emergency alerts, pole attachments, equal employment opportunity, privacy, consumer protection, and technical standards. In addition, proceedings before the FCC and state regulatory bodies have examined the rates that cable operators must pay to use utility poles and conduits, and other terms and conditions of pole attachment agreements. Pole attachment costs are significant and changes in pole attachment regulation and the resulting rates could have an adverse impact on our operations. We cannot predict the nature and pace of these and other developments or the effect they may have on our operations.

Regulation of Wireline Operations

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As an incumbent local exchange carrier ("ILEC"), Shenandoah Telephone Company’s (“Shenandoah Telephone”) operations are regulated by federal and state regulatory agencies.

State Regulation.  Shenandoah Telephone’s rates for local exchange service, intrastate toll service, and intrastate access charges are subject to the approval of the Virginia State Corporation Commission, ("VSCC").  The VSCC also establishes and oversees implementation of certain provisions of the federal and state telecommunications laws, including interconnection requirements, promotion of competition, and consumer protection standards.  The VSCC also regulates rates, service areas, service standards, accounting methods, affiliated transactions and certain other financial transactions. Pursuant to the FCC’s October 27, 2011 order adopting comprehensive reforms to the federal intercarrier compensation and universal service policies and rules (as discussed above and further below), the FCC preempted state regulatory commissions’ jurisdiction over all terminating access charges, including intrastate terminating access charges, which historically have been within the states’ jurisdiction.  However, the FCC vested in the states the obligation to monitor the tariffing of intrastate rate reductions for a transition period, to oversee interconnection negotiations and arbitrations, and to determine the network edge, subject to FCC guidance, for purposes of the new “bill-and-keep” framework.  A federal appeals court has affirmed the decision. The outcome of those further challenges could modify or delay the effectiveness of the FCC’s rule changes.  During 2017 the FCC initiated a further proceeding to consider whether additional changes to interconnection obligations are needed, including how and where companies interconnect their networks with the networks of other providers. Although we are unable to predict the ultimate effect that the FCC’s order will have on the state regulatory landscape or our operations, the rules may decrease or eliminate revenue sources or otherwise limit our ability to recover the full value of our network assets.

Interconnection. Federal law and FCC regulations impose certain obligations on incumbent local exchange carriers to interconnect their networks with other telecommunications providers (either directly or indirectly) and to enter into ICAs with certain types of telecommunications providers.  Interconnection agreements typically are negotiated on a statewide basis and are subject to state approval.  If an agreement cannot be reached, parties to interconnection negotiations can submit unresolved issues to federal or state regulators for arbitration.  Disputes regarding intercarrier compensation can be brought in a number of forums (depending on the nature and jurisdiction of the dispute) including PUCs, the FCC, and the courts.  The Company is working to resolve routine interconnection and intercarrier compensation-related disputes concerning the volume of traffic exchanged between the Company and third parties, appropriate access rates, and terms for the origination and termination of traffic on third-party networks.

Regulation of Intercarrier Compensation.  Shenandoah Telephone participates in the access revenue pools administered by the FCC-supervised National Exchange Carrier Association (“NECA”), which collects and distributes the revenues from interstate access charges that long-distance carriers pay us for originating and terminating interstate calls over our network.  Shenandoah Telephone also participates in some NECA tariffs that govern the rates, terms, and conditions of our interstate access offerings.  Some of those tariffs are under review by the FCC, and we may be obligated to refund affected access charges collected in the past or in the future if the FCC ultimately finds that the tariffed rates were unreasonable.  We cannot predict whether, when, and to what extent such refunds may be due.

On October 27, 2011, the FCC adopted a number of broad changes to the ICC rules governing the interstate access rates charged by small-to-mid-sized ILECs such as Shenandoah Telephone.  For example, the FCC adopted a national “bill-and-keep” framework, which will result in substantial reductions in the access charges paid by long distance carriers and other interconnecting carriers, possibly to zero, accompanied by increases to the subscriber line charges paid by business and residential end users.  In addition, the FCC has changed some of the rules that determine what compensation voice service providers, including but not limited to wireless carriers, competitive local exchange carriers, VoIP providers and providers of other Internet-enabled services, should pay and receive for originating and terminating traffic that is interconnected with ILEC networks.

The FCC’s changes to the ICC rules have been affirmed by a federal appeals court. These changes, and potential future changes, to such compensation regulations could increase our expenses and/or reduce our revenues. 

The VSCC has jurisdiction over local telephone companies’ intrastate access charges, and has indicated in the past that it might open a generic proceeding on the rates charged for intrastate access, although the scope and likelihood of such a proceeding is unclear in light of the FCC’s overhaul of the intercarrier compensation rules (discussed above), which affect states’ jurisdiction over intrastate access charges.  

Interstate and intrastate access charges are important sources of revenue for Shenandoah Telephone’s operations.  Unless these revenues can either be replaced through a new universal service mechanism, or unless they can be reflected in

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higher rates to local end users, or replaced through other newly created methods of cost recovery, the loss of revenues to the Company could be significant.  There can be no assurance that access charges in their present form will be continued or that sufficient substitutes for the lost revenues will be provided.  If access charges are reduced without sufficient substitutes for the lost revenues, this could have a material adverse impact on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.  In addition, changes to the intercarrier compensation rules and policies could have a material impact on our competitive position vis-à-vis other service providers, particularly in our ability to proactively make improvements to our networks and systems.

Universal Service Fund. Shenandoah Telephone receives disbursements from the USF.  In October 2011, the FCC adopted comprehensive changes to the universal service program that are intended in part to stabilize the USF, the total funding of which had increased considerably in recent years.  Some of the FCC’s reforms impact the rules that govern disbursements from the USF to rural ILECs such as Shenandoah Telephone, and to other providers.  Such changes, and additional future changes, may reduce the size of the USF and payments to Shenandoah Telephone, a subsidiary of the Company, which could have an adverse impact on the operating results of the Company.  The Company is not able to predict if or when additional changes will be made to the USF, or whether and how such changes would affect the extent of our total federal universal service assessments, the amounts we receive, or our ability to recover costs associated with the USF. We cannot predict the extent to which such access charges may decrease or change in the future or the effect such access charge increases may have on our ability to provide cable service.

If the Universal Service Administrative Company (“USAC”) were required to account for the USF program in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles for federal agencies under the Anti-Deficiency Act (the “ADA”), it could cause delays in USF payments to fund recipients and significantly increase the amount of USF contribution payments charged to wireline and wireless consumers.  Each year since 2004, Congress has adopted short-term exemptions for the USAC from the ADA.  Congress has from time to time considered adopting a longer term exemption for the USAC from the ADA, but we cannot predict whether any such exemption will be adopted or the effect it may have on the Company.

In February, 2012, the FCC released an order making substantial changes to the rules and regulations governing the federal USF Lifeline Program, which provides discounted telephone services to low income consumers.  The order imposes greater recordkeeping and reporting obligations, and generally subjects providers of Lifeline-supported services to greater oversight.  In 2016, the FCC released a second substantial Lifeline order that amended the program to provide support for broadband services and phase out support for voice services.  Included among the new rules was a requirement that any eligible telecommunications carrier ("ETC") which offered broadband service, on its own or through an affiliate, must also offer Lifeline-supported broadband service.  Due to this requirement, our Company began offering Lifeline-supported broadband in areas where it operates as an ETC. In 2017, the FCC released a Lifeline order that included clarifications to the 2016 Lifeline order and proposed reforms aimed at improving program integrity. As a result of our Company providing Lifeline-supported services, we are subject to increased reporting and recordkeeping requirements, and could be subject to increased regulatory oversight, investigations or audits. The FCC, USAC and other authorities have conducted, and in the future are expected to continue to conduct, more extensive audits of USF support recipients, as well as other heightened oversight activities. The impact of these activities on the Company, if any, is uncertain.

Broadband Services. In December 2010, the FCC adopted so-called net neutrality rules that it deemed necessary to ensure an open Internet that is not unduly restricted by network gatekeepers. Those rules subjected wireline and wireless broadband Internet access service providers to varying regulations (depending upon the nature of the service) including three key requirements: 1) a prohibition against blocking websites or other online applications; 2) a prohibition against unreasonable discrimination among Internet users or among different websites or other sources of information; and 3) a transparency requirement compelling the disclosure of network management policies.  Our cable and wireline subsidiaries that provide broadband Internet access services were subject to these rules.  However, on January 14, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in Verizon v. FCC, struck down major portions of the FCC’s net neutrality rules governing the operating practices of broadband Internet access providers like us.   The Court struck down the first two components of the rules, the prohibition against blocking and unreasonable discrimination, concluding that they constitute common carrier restrictions that are not permissible given the FCC’s earlier decision to classify Internet access as an information service, rather than a “telecommunications service.”  The Court simultaneously upheld the FCC’s transparency requirement, concluding that this final requirement does not amount to impermissible common carrier regulation.

In 2015, the FCC determined that broadband Internet access services, such as those we offer, were a form of telecommunications service under the Communications Act and, on that basis, imposed rules banning service providers

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from blocking access to lawful content, restricting data rates for downloading lawful content, prohibiting the attachment of non-harmful devices, giving special transmission priority to affiliates, and offering third parties the ability to pay for priority routing. The 2015 rules also imposed a transparency requirement, i.e., an obligation to disclose all material terms and conditions of our service to consumers.

In December 2017, the FCC adopted an order repudiating its treatment of broadband as a telecommunications service, reclassifying broadband as an information service, and eliminating the 2015 rules other than the transparency requirement, which it eased in significant ways. The FCC also ruled that state regulators may not impose obligations similar to federal obligations that the FCC removed. Various parties have challenged the FCC’s December 2017 ruling in court, but we cannot predict how any such court challenges will be resolved. Moreover, it is possible that the FCC might further revise its approach to broadband Internet access, or that Congress might enact legislation affecting the rules applicable to the service.

As the Internet has matured, it has become the subject of increasing regulatory interest.  Congress and Federal regulators have adopted a wide range of measures directly or potentially affecting Internet use.  The adoption of new Internet regulations or policies could adversely affect our business.

On January 29, 2015, the FCC, in a nation-wide proceeding evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion, increased the minimum connection speeds required to qualify as advanced broadband service to 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.  As a result, the FCC concluded that advanced broadband was not being sufficiently deployed and initiated a new inquiry into what steps it might take to encourage broadband deployment.  This action may lead the FCC to adopt additional measures affecting our broadband business.  At the same time, the FCC has ongoing proceedings to allocate additional spectrum for advanced wireless service, which could provide additional wireless competition to our broadband business.

Other Regulatory Obligations.  Shenandoah Telephone is subject to requirements relating to CPNI, CALEA implementation, interconnection, access to rights of way, number portability, number pooling, accessibility of telecommunications for those with disabilities, protection for consumer privacy, and other obligations similar to those discussed above for our wireless operations.

The FCC and other authorities continue to consider policies to encourage nationwide advanced broadband infrastructure development.  For example, the FCC has largely deregulated DSL and other broadband services offered by ILECs.  Such changes benefit our ILEC, but could make it more difficult for us (or for NECA) to tariff and pool DSL costs.  Broadband networks and services are subject to CALEA rules, network management disclosure and prohibitions, requirements relating to consumer privacy, and other regulatory mandates.

911 Services.  We are subject to FCC rules that require telecommunications carriers to make emergency 911 services available to their subscribers, including enhanced 911 services that convey the caller’s telephone number and detailed location information to emergency responders.  In December 2013 the FCC adopted a rule requiring all 911 service providers that serve a public safety answering point or other local emergency responder, to take reasonable measures to ensure 911 circuit diversity, availability of backup power at central offices that directly serve PSAPs, and diversity of network monitoring links.

Long Distance Services.  We offer long distance service to our customers through our subsidiary, Shentel Communications, LLC.  Our long distance rates are not subject to FCC regulation, but we are required to offer long distance service through a subsidiary other than Shenandoah Telephone, to disclose our long distance rates on a website, to maintain geographically averaged rates, to pay contributions to the USF and make other mandatory payments based on our long-distance revenues, and to comply with other filing and regulatory requirements.  In November 2013 the FCC issued an order imposing greater recordkeeping and reporting obligations on certain long distance providers delivering calls to rural areas.  The order imposes greater recordkeeping and quarterly reporting obligations on such providers, and generally subjects such providers to greater oversight.

CLEC Operations.  We are authorized to operate as a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier ("CLEC") in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  CLECs generally are subject to federal and state regulations that are similar to, but not as stringent as, those that apply to our ILEC operations.  Both the FCC and the state regulatory authorities require that, in most circumstances, CLEC access charges be no higher than the access charges of the ILECs in areas where they operate.


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Employees
        
At December 31, 2018, we had approximately 1,029 employees, of whom approximately 1,018 were full-time employees.  None of our employees is represented by a union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Executive Officers of the Registrant

The following table presents information about our executive officers who, other than Christopher E. French, are not members of our board of directors.  Our executive officers serve at the pleasure of the Board of Directors.
Name
Title
Age
Date in Position
Christopher E. French
President and Chief Executive Officer
61
April 1988
 
 
 
 
David L. Heimbach
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
43
May 2018
 
 
 
 
James F. Woodward
Senior Vice President – Finance and Chief Financial Officer
59
November 2017
 
 
 
 
William L. Pirtle
Senior Vice President – Sales and Marketing
59
January 2019
 
 
 
 
Thomas A. Whitaker
Senior Vice President – Fiber Operations
58
January 2019
 
 
 
 
Edward H. McKay
Senior Vice President – Engineering and Operations
46
January 2019
 
 
 
 
Raymond B. Ostroski
General Counsel, Vice President - Legal and Corporate Secretary
64
January 2013

Mr. French is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, where he is responsible for the overall leadership and strategic direction of the Company. He has served as President since 1988, and has been a member and Chairman of the Board of Directors since 1996. Prior to appointment as President, Mr. French held a variety of positions with the Company, including Vice President Network Service and Executive Vice President. Mr. French holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and an MBA, both from the University of Virginia. He has held board and officer positions in both state and national telecommunications associations, including service as a director of the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO) and was president and director of the Virginia Telecommunications Industry Association. Mr. French is currently a member of both the Board of Directors and the Leadership Committee of the USTelecom Association.  

Mr. Heimbach is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Shentel. He joined the Company in May 2018 having previously served in a variety of senior management roles with both large companies and entrepreneurial start-ups. He most recently served as Chief Operating Officer of Rise Broadband, the nation’s largest fixed wireless service provider, with responsibility for sales, marketing, product management, engineering, construction, field and customer operations, and corporate strategy. Prior to joining Rise Broadband, Mr. Heimbach held several executive positions at Cincinnati Bell over a 14 year period including Chief Operating Officer; Senior Vice President/General Manager, Business & Carrier Markets; Vice President & General Manager of the Evolve Business Solutions subsidiary; Vice President, Product Development; Director, Small & Medium Business Strategy; Director of Operations, Extended Territories; and Product Manager. Mr. Heimbach holds a B.S. in Communications from the J. Warren McClure School of Information & Telecommunications Systems from Ohio University and is a board member of the American Cable Association and a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO).

Mr. Woodward is Senior Vice President – Finance and Chief Financial Officer for Shentel. He joined Shentel in November of 2017. Prior to joining Shentel, he held various positions in a 34-year career with Media General Inc., a public diversified American media company, including Senior Vice President-Finance and Chief Financial Officer, Group Vice President – Growth and Performance  and Vice President – Corporate Human Resources. He holds a B.A. degree in Accounting from James Madison University. 

Mr. Pirtle is Senior Vice President - Sales and Marketing for Shentel. He joined the Company in 1992 as Vice President - Network Services responsible for Shentel's technology decisions, maintenance and operation of its telephone, cable, cellular, paging and fiber optics networks. Most recently, he served as the Company's Senior Vice President - Wireless from September 2015 to December 2018 until he assumed his current role as of January 2019. He helped launch Shentel's Internet business in 1994, and led its participation in its wireless PCS business and Sprint affiliation beginning in 1995. He was in the pre-med program and holds a B.A degree in Biology from the University of Virginia. Mr. Pirtle is a co-founder of the Shenandoah Valley Technology Council and has represented the Company on the Board of

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ValleyNet. Mr. Pirtle currently serves on the CTIA and CCA boards of directors and will serve as chairman of the CCA board in 2019.

Mr. Whitaker is Senior Vice President - Fiber Operations for Shentel. He was promoted to Senior Vice President - Cable in September 2015 and served in that position until assuming his new role in January of 2019. Mr. Whitaker joined Shentel in 2004, through the Shentel acquisition of NTC Communications. Mr. Whitaker began his career in 1983. He previously was Chief Operating Officer of NTC Communications, and served as Vice President of Network Operations at Broadslate Networks, Director of Wireless Operations for nTelos, and was Co-Founder and Vice President of Nat-Com, Incorporated. Mr. Whitaker holds a B.A. degree in Biology from West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, WV. Mr. Whitaker also serves on the board of National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC).

Mr. McKay is Senior Vice President - Engineering and Operations for Shentel. He is responsible for network planning, engineering, construction, and operations for Shentel's networks. He was promoted to Senior Vice President in September 2015. Previously he was Vice President - Wireline and Engineering. Mr. McKay joined Shentel in 2004 and began his telecommunications industry career in 1996, including previous engineering management positions at UUNET and Verizon. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he earned master's and bachelor's degrees in Electrical Engineering. He represents the Company on the Board of ValleyNet.

Mr. Ostroski is General Counsel and Vice President – Legal and Corporate Secretary for Shentel. He joined Shentel in 2013 and is responsible for all legal and regulatory compliance matters for the Company.  He also acts as Corporate Secretary to the Company’s Board of Directors.  Mr. Ostroski began his career in the telecommunications industry in 1985 and has served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel for One Communications, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Commonwealth Telephone Enterprises, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for RCN Corporation and Senior Vice President and General Counsel of C-TEC Corporation.  Mr. Ostroski earned a BS degree in Social Science from Wilkes University and also earned a Juris Doctor degree from Temple University School of Law.

Websites and Additional Information

The Company maintains a corporate website at www.shentel.com. We make available free of charge through our website our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8‑K and all amendments to those reports, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file or furnish such reports with or to the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC").  The contents of our website are not a part of this report.  In addition, the SEC maintains a website at www.sec.gov that contains reports, proxy and information statements and other information regarding the Company.


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ITEM 1A.
RISK FACTORS

Our business and operations are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties. The risks set forth under "Business" and the following risk factors should be read carefully in connection with evaluating our business. The following risks (or additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently believe to be immaterial) could materially affect our financial results and conditions.

Risks Related to the Telecommunications Industry

Intensifying competition in all segments of our business may limit our ability to sustain profitable operations.

As new technologies are developed and deployed by competitors in our service area, some of our subscribers may select other providers’ offerings based on price, capabilities or personal preferences.  Most of our competitors possess greater resources, have more extensive coverage areas and offer more services than we do.  If significant numbers of our subscribers elect to move to competing providers, or if market saturation limits the rate of new subscriber additions, we may not be able to sustain profitable operations.

Nationwide, incumbent local exchange carriers have experienced a decrease in access lines due to the effect of wireless and wireline competition.  We have experienced reductions in the number of access lines to date, and based on industry experience we anticipate that the long-term trend toward declining telephone subscriber counts will continue.  There is a significant risk that this downward trend will have a material adverse effect on the Company’s landline telephone operations in the future.

The Company’s revenue from fiber leases may be adversely impacted by price competition for these facilities.

Alternative technologies, changes in the regulatory environment and current uncertainties in the marketplace may reduce future demand for existing telecommunication services.

The telecommunications industry is experiencing significant technological change, evolving industry standards, ongoing improvements in the capacity and quality of digital technology, shorter development cycles for new products and enhancements and changes in end-user requirements and preferences.  Technological advances, industry changes, changes in the regulatory environment and the availability of additional spectrum or additional flexibility with respect to the use of currently available spectrum could cause the technology we use to become obsolete.  We and our vendors may not be able to respond to such changes and implement new technology on a timely basis, or at an acceptable cost.

Adverse economic conditions in the United States and in our market area involving significantly reduced consumer spending could have a negative impact on our results of operations.

Sprint's subscribers are individual consumers and businesses. Any national economic weakness, restricted credit markets or high unemployment rates could depress consumer spending and harm our operating performance.  In addition, subscribers in our affiliate area are located in a relatively concentrated geographic area; therefore, any material adverse economic conditions that affect our geographic markets in particular could have a disproportionately negative impact on our results.

Regulation by government and taxing agencies may increase our costs of providing service or require changes in services, either of which could impair our financial performance.

Our operations are subject to varying degrees of regulation by the FCC, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as by state and local regulatory agencies and franchising authorities.  Action by these regulatory bodies could negatively affect our operations and our costs of doing business.  For example, changes in tax laws or the interpretation of existing tax laws by state and local authorities could increase income, sales, property or other tax costs.

Our access revenue may be adversely impacted by legislative or regulatory actions or by technology developments that decrease access rates or exempt certain traffic from paying for access to our regulated telephone network.

On October 27, 2011, the FCC adopted a number of broad changes to the intercarrier compensation rules governing the interstate access rates charged by small-to-mid-sized ILECs such as Shenandoah Telephone.  For example, the FCC

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adopted a national “bill and keep” framework, which has resulted in substantial reductions in the access charges paid by long distance carriers and other interconnecting carriers, eliminating such payments in many instances, accompanied by increases to the subscriber line charges paid by business and residential end users. In addition, the FCC has changed some of the rules that determine what compensation carriers, including but not limited to wireless carriers, competitive local exchange carriers, VoIP providers and providers of other Internet-enabled services, should pay (and receive) for their traffic that is interconnected with ILEC networks.  More recently, the FCC initiated a further proceeding to consider whether additional changes to interconnection obligations are needed, including how and where companies interconnect their networks with the networks of other providers. These changes, and potential future changes, to such compensation regulations could increase our expenses or further reduce our revenues. In addition, the Company is working to resolve routine interconnection and intercarrier compensation-related disputes concerning the volume of traffic exchanged between the Company and third parties, appropriate access rates, and terms for the origination and termination of traffic on third-party networks.

Our distribution networks may be subject to weather-related events that may damage our networks and adversely impact our ability to deliver promised services or increase costs related to such events.

Our distribution networks may be subject to weather-related events that could damage our networks and impact service delivery. Some published reports predict that warming global temperatures will increase the frequency and severity of such weather-related events.  Should such predictions be correct or for other reasons there are more weather-related events, and should such events impact the Mid-Atlantic region covered by our networks more frequently or more severely than in the past, our revenues and expenses could be materially adversely impacted.

Risks Related to our Overall Business Strategy

We may not benefit from our acquisition strategy.

As part of our business strategy, we regularly evaluate opportunities to enhance the value of the Company by pursuing acquisitions of other businesses. Although we remain subject to financial and other covenants in our credit agreement that may limit our ability to pursue certain strategic opportunities, we intend to continue to evaluate and, when appropriate, pursue strategic acquisition opportunities as they arise. We cannot provide any assurance, however, with respect to the timing, likelihood, size or financial effect of any potential transaction involving the Company, as we may not be successful in identifying and consummating any acquisition or in integrating any newly acquired business into our operations.

The evaluation of business acquisition opportunities and the integration of any acquired businesses pose a number of significant risks, including the following:

acquisitions may place significant strain on our management, financial and other resources by requiring us to expend a substantial amount of time and resources in the pursuit of acquisitions that we may not complete, or to devote significant attention to the various integration efforts of any newly acquired businesses, all of which will require the allocation of limited resources;

acquisitions may not have a positive impact on our cash flows or financial performance;

even if acquired companies eventually contribute to an increase in our cash flows or financial performance, such acquisitions may adversely affect our operating results in the short term as a result of transaction-related expenses we will have to pay or the higher operating and administrative expenses we may incur in the periods immediately following an acquisition as we seek to integrate the acquired business into our operations;

we may not be able to realize anticipated synergies or eliminate as many anticipated redundant costs;

our operating and financial systems and controls and information services may not be compatible with those of the companies we may acquire and may not be adequate to support our integration efforts, and any steps we take to improve these systems and controls may not be sufficient;

our business plans and projections used to justify the acquisitions and expansion investments are based on assumptions of revenues per subscriber, penetration rates in specific markets where we operate and expected

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operating costs.  These assumptions may not develop as projected, which may negatively impact our profitability or the value of our intangible assets;

growth through acquisitions will increase our need for qualified personnel, who may not be available to us or, if they were employed by a business we acquire, remain with us after the acquisition; and

acquired businesses may have unexpected liabilities and contingencies, which could be significant.

Our ability to comply with the financial covenants in our credit agreement depends primarily on our ability to generate sufficient operating cash flow.

Our ability to comply with the financial covenants under the agreement governing our secured credit facilities will depend primarily on our success in generating sufficient operating cash flow. Under our credit agreement, we are subject to a total leverage ratio covenant, a minimum debt service coverage ratio covenant and a minimum liquidity test. Industry conditions and financial, business and other factors, including those we identify as risk factors in this and our other reports, will affect our ability to generate the cash flows we need to satisfy those financial tests and ratios. Our failure to satisfy the tests or ratios could result in a default and acceleration of repayment of the indebtedness under our credit facilities. If the maturity of our indebtedness were accelerated, we may not have sufficient funds to repay such indebtedness. In such event, to the extent permitted by our credit agreement and applicable law, our lenders would be entitled to proceed against the collateral securing the indebtedness, which includes substantially all of our assets and the assets of our subsidiaries.

Our level of indebtedness could adversely affect our financial health and ability to compete.

As of December 31, 2018, we had $785.2 million of total indebtedness. Our level of indebtedness could have important adverse consequences. For example, it may:

increase our vulnerability to general adverse economic and industry conditions, including interest rate increases, because as of December 31, 2018, a significant portion of our borrowings were, and may continue to be, subject to variable rates of interest;

require us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to payments on our indebtedness, thereby reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures, dividends and other general corporate purposes;

limit our ability to borrow additional funds to alleviate liquidity constraints, as a result of financial and other restrictive covenants in our credit agreement;

limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry in which we operate; and

place us at a competitive disadvantage relative to companies that have less indebtedness.

In addition, our secured credit facilities impose operating and financial restrictions that limit our discretion on some business matters, which could make it more difficult for us to expand, finance our operations and engage in other business activities that may be in our interest. These restrictions limit our ability and that of our subsidiaries to, among other things:

incur additional indebtedness and additional liens on our assets;

engage in certain mergers or acquisitions or asset dispositions;

pay dividends or make other distributions;

voluntarily prepay other indebtedness;

enter into transactions with affiliated persons;

make certain investments; and

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change the nature of our business.

In addition to the term loan secured indebtedness we have incurred and the $75 million of revolving credit indebtedness we may draw against from time to time, we may incur additional indebtedness under our credit facilities. Any additional indebtedness we may incur in the future may subject us to similar or even more restrictive conditions.

Our ability to refinance our indebtedness in the future, should circumstances require it, will depend on our ability in the future to generate cash flows from operations and to raise additional funds, including through the offering of equity or debt securities and through our access to bank debt markets. We may not be able to generate sufficient cash flows from operations or to raise additional funds in amounts necessary for us to repay our indebtedness when such indebtedness becomes due and to meet our other cash needs.

Disruptions of our information technology infrastructure could harm our business.

We depend on our information technology infrastructure to achieve our business objectives. A disruption of our infrastructure could be caused by a natural disaster, manufacturing failure, telecommunications system failure, cybersecurity attack, intrusion or incident, or defective or improperly installed new or upgraded business management systems. Portions of our IT infrastructure also may experience interruptions, delays or cessations of service or produce errors in connection with systems integration or migration work that takes place from time to time. In the event of any such disruption, we may be unable to conduct our business in the normal course. Moreover, our business involves the processing, storage and transmission of data, which would also be negatively affected by such an event. A disruption of our infrastructure could cause us to lose customers and revenue, particularly during a period of heavy demand for our services. We also could incur significant expense in repairing system damage and taking other remedial measures.

We could suffer a loss of revenue and increased costs, exposure to significant liability, reputational harm and other serious negative consequences if we sustain cyber-attacks or other data security breaches that disrupt our operations or result in the dissemination of proprietary or confidential information about us or our customers or other third parties.

We utilize our information technology infrastructure to manage and store various proprietary information and sensitive or confidential data relating to our operations. We routinely process, store and transmit large amounts of data for our customers, including sensitive and personally identifiable information. We depend on our information technology infrastructure to conduct business operations and provide customer services. We may be subject to data breaches and disruptions of the information technology systems we use for these purposes. Our industry has witnessed an increase in the number, intensity and sophistication of cybersecurity incidents caused by hackers and other malicious actors such as foreign governments, criminals, hacktivists, terrorists and insider threats. Hackers and other malicious actors may be able to penetrate our network security and misappropriate or compromise our confidential, sensitive, personal or proprietary information, or that of third parties, and engage in the unauthorized use or dissemination of such information. They may be able to create system disruptions, or cause shutdowns. Hackers and other malicious actors may be able to develop and deploy viruses, worms, ransomware and other malicious software programs that attack our products or otherwise exploit any security vulnerabilities of our systems. In addition, sophisticated hardware and operating system software and applications that we procure from third parties may contain defects in design or manufacture, including “bugs,” cybersecurity vulnerabilities and other problems that could unexpectedly interfere with the operation or security of our systems.

To date, interruptions of our information technology infrastructure have been infrequent and have not had a material impact on our operations. However, because technology is increasingly complex and cyber-attacks are increasingly sophisticated and more frequent, there can be no assurance that such incidents will not have a material adverse effect on us in the future. The consequences of a breach of our security measures, a cyber-related service or operational disruption, or a breach of personal, confidential, proprietary or sensitive data caused by a hacker or other malicious actor could be significant for us, our customers and other affected third parties. For example, the consequences could include damage to infrastructure and property, impairment of business operations, disruptions to customer service, financial costs and harm to our liquidity, costs associated with remediation, loss of revenues, loss of customers, competitive disadvantage, legal expenses associated with litigation, regulatory action, fines or penalties or damage to our brand and reputation.
In addition, the costs to us to eliminate or address the foregoing security challenges and vulnerabilities before or after a cyber incident could be significant. In addition, our remediation efforts may not be successful and could result in

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interruptions, delays or cessation of service. We could also lose existing or potential customers for our services in connection with any actual or perceived security vulnerabilities in the services.
We are subject to laws, rules and regulations relating to the collection, use and security of user data. Our operations are also subject to federal and state laws governing information security. In the event of a data breach or operational disruption caused by an information security incident, such rules may require consumer and government agency notification and may result in regulatory enforcement actions with the potential of monetary forfeitures as well as civil litigation. We have incurred, and will continue to incur, expenses to comply with privacy and security standards and protocols imposed by law, regulation, industry standards and contractual obligations.

Negative outcomes of legal proceedings may adversely affect our business and financial condition.

We may become involved in legal proceedings from time to time. These proceedings may be complicated, costly and disruptive to our business operations. We might also incur significant expenses in defending these matters or may be required to pay significant fines, awards and settlements. Any of these potential outcomes, such as judgments, awards, settlements or orders could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, operating results or our ability to do business.
Our balance sheet contains certain intangible assets including goodwill that we may be required to write off or write down in the future in the event of the impairment of certain of those assets arising from any deterioration in our future performance or other circumstances. Such write-offs or write-downs could adversely impact our earnings and stock price, and our ability to obtain financing in the future.
At December 31, 2018, we had $146.5 million in goodwill and $366.0 million of other intangible assets capitalized on our balance sheet, which collectively represented 34.5% of our total assets at that date.
We test our goodwill and other intangible assets for impairment annually or when events or circumstances warrant. If the testing performed indicates that impairment has occurred, we are required to record an impairment charge for the difference between the carrying value of the intangible asset and the fair value of the intangible asset, in the period in which the determination is made.
We may be required in the future to write off or write down certain intangible assets including goodwill in the event of deterioration in our future performance, sustained slower growth or other circumstances. Such a write-off or write-down could adversely impact our earnings and market price of our common stock, and our ability to obtain financing in the future.
We have identified material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting that, if not properly corrected, could materially adversely affect our operations and result in material misstatements in our financial statements.
In accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, we, along with our independent registered public accounting firm, are required to report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. Failure to design and maintain effective internal control could constitute a material weakness which could result in inaccurate financial statements, inaccurate disclosures or failure to prevent fraud.

As of December 31, 2018, we did not maintain an effective control environment attributable to certain identified material weaknesses. We describe these material weaknesses in Item 9A. Controls and Procedures in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. These control deficiencies create a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement to the consolidated financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis, and therefore we concluded that the deficiencies represent material weaknesses in the Company’s internal control over financial reporting and our internal control over financial reporting was not effective as of December 31, 2018. The existence of these or other material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting could also result in errors in our financial statements that could require us to restate our financial statements, cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations and cause stockholders to lose confidence in our reported financial information, all of which could materially and adversely affect our business and stock price.

We have an underfunded non-contributory defined benefit pension plan.
Through our acquisition of nTelos, we assumed nTelos’ non-contributory defined benefit pension plan and other post-retirement benefit plans, covering all employees who met eligibility requirements and were employed by nTelos prior

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to October 1, 2003. This pension plan was closed to nTelos employees hired on or after October 1, 2003. As of December 31, 2018, the plan was underfunded by approximately $5.1 million. See Note 2, Summary of Significant Accounting Policies, included with the Notes to our consolidated financial statements for additional information regarding the accounting for the defined benefit pension and other postretirement benefit plans. We do not expect that we will be required to make a cash contribution to the underfunded pension plan in 2019, but we may be required to make cash contributions in future periods depending on the level of interest rates and investment returns on plan assets.

Increases in our costs of providing benefits under our non-contributory defined benefit pension plan and other postretirement benefit plans could negatively impact our results of operations and cash flows.
The measurement of the plan obligations and costs of providing benefits under the defined benefit pension and other postretirement benefit plans involves various factors, including the development of valuation assumptions and accounting policy elections. We are required to make assumptions and estimates that include the discount rate applied to benefit obligations, the long-term expected rate of return on plan assets, the anticipated rate of increase of health care costs, our expected level of contributions to the plan, the incidence of mortality, the expected remaining service period of plan participants, the level of compensation and rate of compensation increases, employee age, length of service, and the long-term expected investment rate credited to employees of certain plans, among other factors. If our benefit plans' costs increase, due to adverse changes in the securities markets, resulting in worse-than-assumed investment returns and discount rates, and adverse medical cost trends, our financial condition and operating results could be adversely affected.
Our business may be impacted by new or changing tax laws or regulations and actions by federal, state and/or local agencies, or how judicial authorities apply tax laws.
In connection with the products and services we sell, we calculate, collect and remit various federal, state and local taxes, surcharges and regulatory fees to numerous federal, state and local governmental authorities, including federal USF contributions and common carrier regulatory fees. In addition, we incur and pay state and local taxes and fees on purchases of goods and services used in our business.
Tax laws are subject to change as new laws are passed and new interpretations of the law are issued or applied. In many cases, the application of tax laws (including the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) is uncertain and subject to differing interpretations, especially when evaluated against new technologies and telecommunications services, such as broadband internet access and cloud related services.
In the event that we have incorrectly calculated, assessed or remitted amounts that were due to governmental authorities, we could be subject to additional taxes, fines, penalties or other adverse actions, which could materially impact our business, financial condition and operating results. In the event that federal, state and/or local municipalities were to significantly increase taxes on our network, operations or services, or seek to impose new taxes, it could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, operating results or ability to do business.

Risks Related to the Wireless Industry

New disclosure or usage requirements could adversely affect the results of our wireless operations.

The FCC may impose additional consumer protection requirements upon wireless service providers, including billing-related disclosures and usage alerts. Such requirements could increase costs related to or impact the amount of revenue we receive from our wireless services.

Customer concerns over radio frequency emissions may discourage use of wireless handsets or expose us to potential litigation.

In the past, media reports and certain professional studies have suggested that certain radio frequency emissions from wireless handsets may be linked to various health problems, including cancer, and may interfere with various electronic medical devices, including hearing aids and pacemakers.  Additionally, the FCC has in the past commenced rulemakings and inquiries that seek public comment on a variety of issues, including whether revisions to the existing radio frequency standards and testing requirements are warranted.  Any decrease in demand for wireless services, increases in the costs of litigation or damage awards resulting from substantiation of harm from such emissions could impair our financial condition and results of operations.

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Regulation by governmental authorities or potential litigation relating to the use of wireless handsets while driving could adversely affect the results of our wireless operations.

Some studies have indicated that some aspects of using wireless handsets while driving may impair driver's attention in certain circumstances, making accidents more likely.  These concerns could lead to litigation relating to accidents, deaths or serious bodily injuries, or to new restrictions or regulations on wireless phone use.  A number of state and local governments are considering or have enacted legislation that would restrict or prohibit the use of a wireless handset while driving a vehicle or, alternatively, require the use of a hands-free handset.  Additionally, certain federal agencies have adopted rules and proposed guidelines for the use of wireless handsets while operating commercial and non-commercial vehicles.  These rules, and any legislation that could be enacted, may require wireless service providers to supply to their subscribers hands-free enhanced services, such as voice-activated dialing and hands-free speaker phones and headsets, in order to continue generating revenue from subscribers, who make many of their calls while on the road.  If we are unable to provide hands-free services and products to subscribers in a timely and adequate fashion, the volume of wireless phone usage would likely decrease, and the ability of our wireless operations to generate revenues would suffer.

Risks Related to our Wireless Services

Our business may suffer as a result of competitive pressures.

Our revenue growth is primarily dependent on the growth of Sprint wireless subscribers and monthly recurring charges to these users.  Competitive pressures in the wireless services industry have increased. These competitive pressures in the wireless telecommunications market have caused some major carriers to offer unlimited plans at lower prices. Increased price competition could lead to lower monthly recurring charges or a loss of subscribers in the future. Continued competitive pressures could require Sprint to lower its prices, which will limit growth in monthly recurring charges to subscribers and could adversely affect our revenues, profitability and cash flows from operations.

We may not be able to implement our business plan successfully if our operating costs are higher than we anticipate.

Increased competition may lead to higher promotional costs to acquire Sprint's subscribers.  If these costs are more than we anticipate, the actual amount of funds available to implement our operating strategy and business plan may fall short of our estimates.

The dynamic nature of the wireless market may limit management’s ability to correctly identify causes of volatility in key operating performance measures.

Our business plan and estimated future operating results are based on estimates of key operating performance measures, including subscriber growth, subscriber turnover, commonly known as churn, average monthly revenue per subscriber, equipment revenue, subscriber acquisition costs and other operating costs.  Continued moves by all carriers to offer installment billing and leasing for wireless handsets will have an effect on revenues, cost of goods sold and churn. The dynamic nature of the wireless market, economic conditions, increased competition in the wireless telecommunications industry, the entry of potential new competitors due to past or future FCC spectrum auctions, new service offerings by Sprint or competitors at lower prices and other issues facing the wireless telecommunications industry in general have created a level of uncertainty that may adversely affect our ability to predict these key measures of performance.

We may experience a high rate of affiliate subscriber turnover, in our territory, which could adversely affect our future financial performance.

Subscriber turnover, or churn, has been relatively stable in recent years.  Because of significant competition in the industry, the popularity of prepaid wireless service offerings, and unlimited postpaid plans, changes to Sprint’s competitive position and economic uncertainty, among other factors, this relative stability may not continue and the future rate of subscriber turnover may be higher than in recent periods.

A high rate of churn could increase the sales and marketing costs we incur in obtaining new subscribers, especially because, consistent with industry practice, even with the introduction of wireless handset installment billing and leasing, we expect to continue to subsidize a portion of the costs related to the purchases of wireless handsets by some subscribers.

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If we are unable to secure and retain tower sites, the level of service we provide could be adversely affected.

Many of our cell sites are co-located on leased tower facilities shared with one or more wireless providers. A large portion of these leased tower sites are owned by a limited number of companies. If economic conditions adversely affect the leasing company, then our ability to enter into leases at new locations may be affected, which could leave portions of our service area without service and increase subscriber turnover or adversely affect our ability to expand into new geographic areas.

Most of the towers that we own are located on leased real property. If such leases are not renewed, we may have to relocate those cell sites, which would create significant additional expenses, or leave portions of our service area without service, increasing the likelihood of subscriber turnover.

Our business could be adversely affected by findings of product liability for health/safety risks from wireless devices and transmission equipment, as well as by changes to regulations/radio frequency emission standards.

We do not manufacture the devices or other equipment that we sell, and we depend on our suppliers to provide defect-free and safe equipment. Suppliers are required by applicable law to manufacture their devices to meet certain governmentally imposed safety criteria. However, even if the devices we sell meet the regulatory safety criteria, we could be subject to claims along with the equipment manufacturers and suppliers for any harm caused by products we sell if such products are later found to have design or manufacturing defects.

Allegations have been made that the use of wireless handsets and wireless transmission equipment, such as cell towers, may be linked to various health concerns, including cancer and brain tumors. Lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers and carriers in the industry claiming damages for alleged health problems arising from the use of wireless handsets. In addition, the FCC has from time to time gathered data regarding wireless handset emissions and its assessment of this issue may evolve based on its findings. The media has also reported incidents of handset battery malfunction, including reports of batteries that have overheated. These allegations may lead to changes in regulatory standards. There have also been other allegations regarding wireless technology, including allegations that wireless handset emissions may interfere with various electronic medical devices (including hearing aids and pacemakers), airbags and anti-lock brakes. Defects in the products of our suppliers or their smartphone devices could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, operating results or ability to do business.

Additionally, there are safety risks associated with the use of wireless devices while operating vehicles or equipment. Concerns over any of these risks and the effect of any legislation, rules or regulations that have been and may be adopted in response to these risks could limit our ability to sell our wireless services.

Risks Related to Our Relationship with Sprint

The performance of our wireless service provider Shenandoah Personal Communications, LLC, our largest operating subsidiary in terms of revenues and assets, may be adversely affected by any interruption in, or other adverse change to, Sprint’s business.

We rely significantly on Sprint’s ongoing operations to continue to offer wireless subscribers in our affiliated service area the seamless national services that we currently provide.  Any interruption in, or other adverse change to, Sprint’s business could adversely affect our results of operations, liquidity and financial condition.  Our business could also be adversely affected if competing national or regional wireless carriers are able to introduce new products and services or otherwise satisfy customers’ service demands more rapidly or more effectively than Sprint.

The costs associated with our ongoing participation in Sprint’s network upgrade and expansion plans may affect our operating results, liquidity and financial position.
        
Sprint continues to upgrade and expand its wireless network with the intention of improving voice quality, coverage and data speeds and simultaneously reducing future operating costs.  We participate in this plan and, to date, we have made significant upgrades in our service areas, but ongoing modernization efforts are expected to continue.

The continuing success of Sprint’s upgrade and expansion plans will depend on the timing, extent and cost of implementation and the performance of third parties. Should Sprint’s implementation plan be delayed, our margins

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could be adversely affected and such effects could be material.  Should Sprint’s future delivery of services expected to be deployed on the upgraded network be delayed, it could potentially result in the loss of Sprint's subscribers to our competitors and adversely affect our revenues, profitability and cash flows from operations.

Sprint may make business decisions that are not in our best interests, which may adversely affect our business and our relationships with subscribers in our territory, increase our expenses and decrease our revenues.

Under its agreements with us, Sprint has a substantial amount of control over the operations of our wireless business.  Accordingly, Sprint may make decisions that could adversely affect our wireless business, such as the following:

Sprint could price its national plans based on its own objectives and could set price levels or other terms that may not be economically advantageous for us;

Sprint could develop products and services that could adversely affect our results of operations;

if Sprint’s costs to perform certain services exceed the costs they expect, subject to limitations under our Sprint Affiliate Agreement, Sprint could seek to increase the amounts charged to us for such services;

Sprint could make decisions that could adversely affect the Sprint brand names, reputation, or products or services, which could adversely affect our business;

Sprint could make technology and network decisions that could greatly increase our capital investment requirements and our operating costs to continue offering the seamless service we provide;

Sprint could restrict our ability to offer new services needed to remain competitive.  This could put us at a competitive disadvantage relative to other wireless service providers if those other wireless service providers begin offering those new services in our market areas, increasing our churn, adversely affecting our ability to obtain new subscribers and reducing our revenues and operating income from wireless services; and

Sprint may not be able to provide the amount of spectrum that is necessary to adequately operate our business.

In addition, if the pending business combination between T-Mobile US, Inc. (T-Mobile) and Sprint is completed, it is possible that the combined company may not want to continue our affiliate services arrangement with Sprint. For additional information, see the risk factor below titled "Some provisions of the Sprint agreements may diminish the value of our common stock and restrict or diminish the value of our business."

Our dependence on Sprint for services may limit our ability to forecast operating results.

Our dependence on Sprint injects a degree of uncertainty into our business and financial planning.  We may, at times, disagree with Sprint concerning the applicability, calculation approach or accuracy of Sprint-supplied revenue data. 

We are subject to risks relating to Sprint’s provision of back-office services and to changes in Sprint's products, services, plans and programs.

Any failure by Sprint to provide high-quality back-office services could lead to subscriber dissatisfaction, increased churn or otherwise increased costs or loss of revenue.  We rely on Sprint’s internal support systems, including customer care, billing and back-office support.  Our operations could be disrupted if Sprint is unable to provide or expand its internal support systems while maintaining acceptable service levels, or to efficiently outsource those services and systems through third-party vendors.

In addition, restrictions exist, and new restrictions are considered from time to time by Congress, federal agencies and states. Our reliance on Sprint to perform those functions could subject us to potential liabilities. 

The competitiveness of Sprint’s wireless products and services is a key factor in our ability to attract and retain subscribers.  Changes in Sprint’s wireless products and services may reduce subscriber additions, increase subscriber churn and decrease subscriber credit quality.


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Sprint’s roaming arrangements to provide service outside of the Sprint National Network may not be competitive with other wireless service providers, which may restrict our ability to attract and retain subscribers and may increase our costs of doing business.

We rely on Sprint’s roaming arrangements with other wireless service providers for coverage in areas where Sprint wireless service is not available.  If customers are not able to roam quickly or efficiently onto other wireless networks, we may lose current subscribers and Sprint wireless services may be less attractive to new subscribers.

The risks related to our roaming arrangements include the following:

the quality of the service provided by another provider while roaming may not approximate the quality of the service provided by the Sprint wireless network;

the price of a roaming call off network may not be competitive with prices of other wireless companies for roaming calls, or may not be “commercially reasonable” (as determined by the FCC);

customers may not be able to use Sprint’s advanced features, such as voicemail notification, while roaming; and

Sprint or the carriers providing the service may not be able to provide accurate billing information on a timely basis.

Some provisions of the Sprint agreements may diminish the value of our common stock and restrict or diminish the value of our PCS business.

On April 29, 2018, T-Mobile and Sprint entered into a business combination agreement, pursuant to which T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to combine their respective businesses. It is possible that the combined company would not want to continue our affiliate services arrangement with Sprint. If the transaction is completed and we are unable to enter into a mutually acceptable addendum to the Sprint agreements with the combined company, the combined company under certain circumstances may purchase the operating assets of our wireless operations for a price equal to 90 percent of the entire business value ("EBV") as that term is defined in our agreement with Sprint. EBV is calculated as: (i) the fair market value of a going concern paid by a willing buyer to a willing seller in a change of control transaction; (ii) valued as if the business will continue to utilize existing brands and operate under existing agreements; and, (iii) valued as if we have continued access to the spectrum and the frequencies then in use in the network.  Under our agreement with Sprint, the determination of EBV is made by an independent appraisal process using the then-current customary means of valuing a wireless telecommunications business. If the combined company purchases our wireless operating assets, our affiliate services arrangement with Sprint would end, which generated approximately 68% of our total consolidated operating revenue in 2018, 72% in 2017 and 69% in 2016.

In addition, under limited circumstances involving non-renewal of the Sprint agreements or a breach by us, Sprint may purchase the operating assets of our wireless operations for a purchase price of 90% of EBV in the event of non-renewal, or 81% in the event that termination is the result of a material breach of the Agreement by Shentel. Sprint also must approve any assignment of the Sprint agreements by us and has a right of first refusal to purchase our wireless operating assets if we decide to sell those assets to a third party. 

These restrictions and other restrictions contained in the Sprint agreements could adversely affect the value of our common stock, may limit our ability to sell our wireless operating assets on advantageous terms, may reduce the value a buyer would be willing to pay to acquire those assets and may reduce the EBV, as described in the Sprint agreements. In addition, the possibility that the combined company may purchase the operating assets of our wireless operations may make it difficult for us to attract or retain employees or subscribers or pursue other business opportunities.

We may have difficulty in obtaining an adequate supply of wireless handsets from Sprint.

We depend on our relationship with Sprint to obtain wireless handsets.  Sprint orders wireless handsets from various manufacturers.  We could have difficulty obtaining specific types of wireless handsets in a timely manner if:

Sprint does not adequately project the need for wireless handsets, or enter into arrangements for new types of wireless handsets or other customer equipment, for itself, its wireless affiliates and its other third-party distribution channels, particularly in connection with the transition to new technologies;

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Sprint gives preference to other distribution channels;

we do not adequately project our need for wireless handsets;

Sprint modifies its wireless handset logistics and delivery plan in a manner that restricts or delays access to wireless handsets; or

there is an adverse development in the relationship between Sprint and its suppliers or vendors.

The occurrence of any of the foregoing could result in a decrease in the wireless subscribers in our Sprint Affiliate Area or adversely affect our ability to attract new subscribers.

If Sprint does not continue to enhance its nationwide digital wireless network, we may not be able to attract and retain subscribers in our Sprint Affiliate Area.

Our wireless operations are dependent on Sprint’s national network.  Sprint’s digital wireless network may not provide nationwide coverage to the same extent as the networks of its competitors, which could adversely affect our ability to attract and retain subscribers in our Sprint Affiliate Area.  Sprint currently covers a significant portion of the population of the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Sprint offers wireless services, either on its own network or through its roaming agreements, in every part of the United States.

If Sprint’s wireless licenses are not renewed or are revoked, our wireless business would be harmed.

Wireless spectrum licenses are subject to renewal and revocation by the FCC.  There may be opposition to renewal of Sprint’s wireless licenses upon their expiration, and Sprint’s wireless licenses may not be renewed.  The FCC has adopted specific standards to apply to wireless license renewals.  Any failure by Sprint to comply with these standards could cause revocation or forfeiture of Sprint’s wireless licenses, which would significantly harm us.

If Sprint does not maintain control over its licensed spectrum, our Sprint agreements may be terminated, which would render us unable to continue providing service. Sprint may also need additional spectrum to keep up with customer demands and the availability and cost of this spectrum could impact our wireless business.

Risks Related to Our Cable Services

Our cable segment faces risks from increasing competition for the provision of video services, including competition resulting from new technologies.

Incumbent cable companies, which have historically provided video service, face competition from direct broadcast satellite providers, and more recently from large providers of wireline telecommunications services (such as Verizon, CenturyLink and AT&T), which have begun to upgrade their networks to provide video services in addition to voice and broadband services. Wireless providers are also entering the market for video services by making such services available on handsets and tablets.  In some areas, direct broadcast satellite providers have partnered with large incumbent telecommunications service providers to offer triple-play services.  Moreover, consumers are increasingly accessing video content from alternative sources, such as Internet-based “over the top” providers such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, and related platforms.  The influx of competitors in this area, together with the development of new technologies to support them, are resulting in significant changes in the video business models and regulatory provisions that have applied to the provision of video and other services. These developments may lead to a decline in the demand, price and profitability of our cable and related video services.

Our programming costs are subject to demands for increased payments.

The cable television industry has continued to experience an increase in the cost of programming, especially sports programming retransmission fees.  In addition, as we add programming to our video services for existing customers or distribute existing programming to more customers, we incur increased programming expenses.  Broadcasters affiliated with major over-the-air network services have been increasing their demands for cash payments and other concessions for the right to carry local network television signals on our cable systems. If we are unable to raise our customers’ rates, these increased programming costs could have an adverse impact on our results of operations. 

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Moreover, as our programming contracts and retransmission agreements with programming providers expire, there can be no assurance that they will be renewed on acceptable terms.

Changes to key regulatory requirements can affect our ability to compete.

The cable industry is subject to extensive governmental regulation, which impacts many aspects of our operations. Legislators and regulators at all levels of government frequently consider changing, and sometimes do change, existing statutes, regulations, and interpretations thereof. Future legislative, judicial, or administrative actions may increase our costs or impose additional challenges and restrictions on our business.

Federal law strictly limits the scope of permissible cable rate regulation, and none of our local franchising authorities currently regulate our rates. However, as the rates charged to cable consumers have increased, Congress and the FCC have expressed concern about the impact on consumers, and they could impose restrictions affecting cable rates and programming packages that could adversely impact our existing business model.

The Company operates cable television systems in largely rural areas of Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland pursuant to local franchise agreements.  These franchises are not exclusive, and other entities may secure franchise authorizations in the future, thereby increasing direct competition to the Company.

Many franchises establish comprehensive facilities and service requirements, as well as specific customer service standards and monetary penalties for non-compliance.  In many cases, franchises are terminable if the franchisee fails to comply with significant provisions set forth in the franchise agreement governing system operations.  Franchises are generally granted for fixed terms and must be periodically renewed.  Franchising authorities may resist granting a renewal if either past performance or the prospective operating proposal is considered inadequate.  Franchise authorities often demand concessions or other commitments as a condition to renewal.  Our local franchises may not be renewed at expiration in which case we would have to cease operations or, operate under either temporary operating agreements or without a franchise while negotiating renewal terms with the local franchising authorities.  We cannot offer assurance that we will be able to comply with all significant provisions of our franchise agreements.  Additionally, although historically we have renewed our franchises without incurring significant costs, we cannot offer assurance that we will be able to renew, or to renew as favorably, our franchises in the future.  A termination of or a sustained failure to renew a franchise in one or more key markets or obtaining such franchise on unfavorable terms could adversely affect our business in the affected geographic area.

Pole attachments are wires and cables that are attached to utility poles.  Cable system attachments to investor-owned public utility poles historically have been regulated at the federal or state level, generally resulting in reasonable pole attachment rates for attachments used to provide cable service.  In contrast, utility poles owned by municipalities or cooperatives are not subject to federal regulation and are generally exempt from state regulation and their attachment rates tend to be higher. Future regulatory changes in this area could impact the pole attachment rates we pay utility companies. In August 2018, the FCC adopted rules, scheduled to become effective thirty (30) days after Office of Management and Budget approval, to permit a “one-touch” make-ready process for poles subject to its jurisdiction. The "one touch" make-ready rules allow third parties to alter certain components of existing attachments for "simple make-ready" (i.e. where the alteration of our components does not involve a reasonable expectation of a service outage, splicing, pole replacement or relocation of a wireless attachment). The rules are intended to promote broadband deployment and competition by facilitating communications attachments, although there are concerns regarding potential damage to existing networks by third parties. Utility pole owners have appealed the rules to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. We cannot predict the effect that these rules will have on our business when they ultimately take effect.

The FCC has periodically considered proposals for new regulations intended to make our cable set-top boxes open to other service providers. If enacted, such new regulations concerning set-top boxes could increase our cost for equipment, affect our relationship with our customers, and/or enable third parties to try to offer equipment that accesses disaggregated cable content merged with other services delivered over the Internet to compete with our premium service offerings.

Risks Related To Our Broadband Services

Increases in broadband usage may cause network capacity limitations, resulting in service disruptions, reduced capacity or slower transmission speeds for our customers.

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Video streaming services, gaming and peer-to-peer file sharing applications use significantly more bandwidth than other Internet activity such as web browsing and email. As use of these newer services continues to grow, our broadband customers will likely use much more bandwidth than in the past. If this occurs, we could be required to make significant capital expenditures to increase network capacity in order to avoid service disruptions, service degradation or slower transmission speeds for our customers. Alternatively, we could choose to implement network management practices to reduce the network capacity available to bandwidth-intensive activities during certain times in market areas experiencing congestion, which could negatively affect our ability to retain and attract customers in affected markets. Competitive or regulatory constraints may preclude us from recovering costs of network investments designed to address these issues, which could adversely impact our operating margins, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.

Our broadband services may be adversely impacted by legislative or regulatory changes that affect our ability to develop and offer services or that could expose us to liability from customers or others.

The Company provides broadband Internet access services to its cable and telephone customers through cable modems and DSL. As the Internet has matured, it has become the subject of increasing regulatory interest.  Congress and Federal regulators have adopted a wide range of measures directly or potentially affecting Internet use.  The adoption of new Internet regulations or policies could adversely affect our business.

In 2015, the FCC determined that broadband Internet access services, such as those we offer, were a form of “telecommunications service” under the Communications Act and, on that basis, imposed rules banning service providers from blocking access to lawful content, restricting data rates for downloading lawful content, prohibiting the attachment of non-harmful devices, giving special transmission priority to affiliates, and offering third parties the ability to pay for priority routing. The 2015 rules also imposed a “transparency” requirement, i.e., an obligation to disclose all material terms and conditions of our service to consumers.

In December 2017, the FCC adopted an order repudiating its prior (2015) treatment of broadband as a “telecommunications service,” reclassifying broadband as an “information service,” and eliminating the rules it had imposed at that time (other than a transparency/disclosure-requirement, which it eased in significant ways). The FCC also ruled that state regulators may not impose obligations similar to federal obligations that the FCC removed. Various parties have challenged this ruling in court, and, we cannot predict how any such court challenges will be resolved. Moreover, it is possible that the FCC might further revise its approach to broadband Internet access, or that Congress might enact legislation affecting the rules applicable to the service.

On January 29, 2015, the FCC, in a nation-wide proceeding evaluating whether “advanced broadband” is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion, increased the minimum connection speeds required to qualify as advanced broadband service to 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.  As a result, the FCC concluded that advanced broadband was not being sufficiently deployed and initiated a new inquiry into what steps it might take to encourage broadband deployment.  This action may lead the FCC to adopt additional measures affecting our broadband business.  At the same time, the FCC has ongoing proceedings to allocate additional spectrum for advanced wireless service, which could provide additional wireless competition to our broadband business.

The FCC imposes obligations on telecommunications service providers, including broadband Internet access service providers, and multichannel video program distributors, like our cable company, intended to ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to access and use telecommunications and video programming services and equipment.  We cannot predict the nature and pace these requirements and other developments, or the impact they may have on our operations.
        
Risks Related to Our Voice Services

Offering voice communications service may subject us to additional regulatory burdens, causing us to incur additional costs.

We offer voice communications services over our cable broadband network and continue to develop and deploy VoIP services. The FCC has ruled that competitive telephone companies that support VoIP services, such as those we offer our customers, are entitled to interconnect with incumbent providers of traditional telecommunications services, which ensures that our VoIP services can compete in the market.  The scope of these interconnection rights are sometimes

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contested by third-party providers, which may affect our ability to compete in the provision of voice services or result in additional costs.  The FCC has also declared that certain VoIP services are not subject to traditional state public utility regulation. The full extent of the FCC preemption of state and local regulation of VoIP services is not yet clear. Expanding our offering of these services may require us to obtain certain additional authorizations. We may not be able to obtain such authorizations in a timely manner, or conditions could be imposed upon such licenses or authorizations that may not be favorable to us. Telecommunications companies generally are subject to other significant regulation which could also be extended to VoIP providers. If additional telecommunications regulations are applied to our VoIP service, it could cause us to incur additional costs.

The FCC has already extended certain traditional telecommunications carrier requirements to many VoIP providers such as us, including E911, USF collection, CALEA, privacy of CPNI, number porting, rural call completion, network outage reporting, disability access, rural call completion and discontinuance of service requirements. In November 2014, the FCC adopted an order imposing limited backup power obligations on providers of facilities-based fixed, residential voice services that are not otherwise line-powered, including our VoIP services.  This became effective for providers with fewer than 100,000 U.S. customer lines in August 2016 and now requires the Company to disclose certain information to customers and to make available back up power at the point of sale.

In November 2011, the FCC released an order significantly changing the rules governing intercarrier compensation payments for the origination and termination of telephone traffic between carriers, including VoIP service providers like us. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the rules in May 2014. The new rules have resulted in a substantial decrease in intercarrier compensation payments over a multi-year period.  In addition, the transition of the Local Number Portability Administrator may impact our ability to manage number porting and related tasks, and/or may result in additional costs arising from the transition to a new administrator.

ITEM 1B.
UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

None.

ITEM 2.
PROPERTIES

The Company owns its corporate headquarters, which occupies a 60,000-square foot building in Edinburg, Virginia, and also owns or leases other warehouse, office and retail space in various locations to support its operations. The leases for the foregoing land, buildings and tower space expire on various dates between 2019 and 2043.  For information about these leases, see Note 13, Commitments and Contingencies, included with the notes to the consolidated financial statements. The Company plans to lease additional land, equipment space, and retail space in support of its operations. The Company owns various additional buildings including:
a 26,500-square foot building in Edinburg, Virginia that houses the Company's main switching center and technical staff,
a 14,000-square foot building in Edinburg, Virginia that includes warehouse space and houses operations staff,
a 10,700-square foot building in Edinburg, Virginia used for customer services and retail sales,
a 17,500-square foot building in Waynesboro, Virginia that houses a switching and data center and technical staff,
a 15,500-square foot building in Waynesboro, Virginia that houses operational staff,
a 4,000-square foot building in Waynesboro, Virginia used for retail sales, and
a 15,600-square foot building in Clifton Forge, Virginia that is leased to a third party.

The Company owns nine telephone exchange buildings that are located in the major towns and some of the rural communities that are served by the regulated telecommunications operations. These buildings contain switching and fiber optic equipment and associated local exchange telecommunications equipment. The Company owns a building that houses customer service operations in Rustburg, Virginia. The Company has fiber optic hubs or points of presence in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Company leases land, buildings and tower space in support of its Wireless operations. As of December 31, 2018, the Company had 1,853 PCS sites, including Wireless sites on property owned by the Company, and approximately 30 retail locations.

ITEM 3.
LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

None

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ITEM 4.
MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

Not applicable


31

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PART II

ITEM 5.
MARKET FOR THE REGISTRANT'S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

The Company's stock is traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “SHEN.” The following table indicates the closing high and low sales prices per share of common stock as reported by the Nasdaq Global Select Market for each quarter during the last two years:
2018
 
High
 
Low
Fourth Quarter
 
$
51.41

 
$
34.74

Third Quarter
 
39.40

 
31.10

Second Quarter
 
39.65

 
29.93

First Quarter
 
38.60

 
30.00

 
2017
 
High
 
Low
Fourth Quarter
 
$
39.92

 
$
32.65

Third Quarter
 
38.58

 
28.06

Second Quarter
 
32.48

 
27.21

First Quarter
 
30.64

 
25.67


As of February 22, 2019, there were 4,073 holders of record of the Company’s common stock.

Shenandoah Telecommunications Company historically has paid annual cash dividends during the fourth quarter of each year.  The cash dividend was $0.27 per share in 2018 and $0.26 per share in 2017.  Dividends are paid to Shenandoah Telecommunications Company shareholders from accumulated dividends paid to it by its operating subsidiaries. Under the Company’s credit agreement, the Company is restricted in its ability to pay dividends in the future.  So long as no Default or Event of Default, as defined in the credit agreement, exists before or will result after giving effect to such dividends, distributions or redemptions on a pro forma basis, the Company may declare or pay a lawful dividend or other distribution of assets, or retire, redeem, purchase or otherwise acquire capital stock in an aggregate amount which when added to any such dividends, distributions or redemptions of capital stock or other equity interest made, declared or paid from January 1, 2016 to the date of declaration, does not exceed $25 million plus 60% of the Company’s consolidated net income (excluding non-cash extraordinary items such as write-downs or write-ups of assets, other than current assets).

The following graph and table show the cumulative total shareholder return on the Company’s common stock compared to the Nasdaq US Index and the Nasdaq Telecommunications Index for the period between December 31, 2013 and December 31, 2018.  The Nasdaq Telecommunications Index represents a wide mix of telecommunications service and equipment providers and smaller carriers that offer similar products and serve similar markets.  The graph assumes $100 was invested on December 31, 2013 in the Company’s common stock, and the other two indexes, and that all dividends were reinvested and market capitalization weighting as of December 31, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.







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Our performance graphs use comparable indexes provided by Nasdaq Global Indexes.

http://api.tenkwizard.com/cgi/image?quest=1&rid=23&ipage=12746333&doc=36
 
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
Shenandoah Telecommunications Company
$
100

$
124

$
172

$
220

$
275

$
361

NDAQ US
$
100

$
112

$
113

$
128

$
155

$
147

NDAQ Telecom Stocks
$
100

$
103

$
106

$
132

$
132

$
123


The Company maintains a dividend reinvestment plan (the “DRIP”) for the benefit of its shareholders.  When shareholders remove shares from the DRIP, the Company issues whole shares in book entry form, pays out cash for any fractional shares, and cancels the fractional shares.  In conjunction with the vesting of shares or exercise of stock options, the grantees may surrender awards necessary to cover the statutory tax withholding requirements and any amounts required to cover stock option strike prices associated with the transaction. 

The following table provides information about the Company’s shares surrendered for the settlement of certain elements regarding equity award issuances and vesting events, during the three months ended December 31, 2018:
 
Number of Shares
Surrendered
 
Average Price
Paid per Share
October 1 to October 31
250

 
$
38.43

November 1 to November 30
38,207

 
49.03

December 1 to December 31
267

 
47.40

Total
38,724

 
$
48.95



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ITEM 6.
SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

The following table sets forth selected consolidated financial data for the years presented and at the dates indicated below. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of our results in any future periods. The summary of our consolidated financial data set forth below should be read together with our consolidated financial statements and related notes, as well as the sections entitled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 
Years Ended December 31,
(in thousands, except share and per share amounts)
2018
 
2017
 
2016
 
2015
 
2014
Operating revenue
$
630,854

 
$
611,991

 
$
535,288

 
$
342,485

 
$
326,946

Operating expenses
537,608

 
565,481

 
512,762

 
268,399

 
265,003

Operating income (loss)
93,246

 
46,510

 
22,526

 
74,086

 
61,943

Interest expense
34,847

 
38,237

 
25,102

 
7,355

 
8,148

Income tax expense (benefit)
15,517

 
(53,133
)
 
2,840

 
27,726

 
22,151

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net income (loss)
46,595

 
66,390

 
(895
)
 
40,864

 
33,883

Total assets
1,484,766

 
1,411,860

 
1,484,407

 
627,151

 
619,242

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total debt - including current maturities
770,242

 
821,958

 
829,265

 
199,661

 
224,250

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Shareholder Information:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Shares outstanding
49,630,119

 
49,327,671

 
48,934,708

 
48,475,132

 
48,264,994

Earnings (loss) per share - basic
$
0.94

 
$
1.35

 
$
(0.02
)
 
$
0.84

 
$
0.70

Earnings (loss) per share - diluted
$
0.93

 
$
1.33

 
$
(0.02
)
 
$
0.83

 
0.70

Cash dividends per share
$
0.27

 
$
0.26

 
$
0.25

 
$
0.24

 
$
0.24




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ITEM 7.
MANAGEMENT'S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

This annual report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including statements regarding our expectations, intentions, or strategies regarding the future.  These statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated in the forward-looking statements.  The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly revise these forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances, except as required by law. The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with Part II, Item 6 "Selected Financial Data" and our consolidated financial statements and notes thereto appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. 

Overview

Shenandoah Telecommunications Company and its subsidiaries, (the "Company", "we", "our", or "us"), provide wireless personal communication service ("PCS") under the Sprint brand, and telephone service, cable television, unregulated communications equipment sales and services, and internet access under the Shentel brand. In addition, the Company operates an interstate fiber optic network and leases its owned cell site towers to both affiliates and non-affiliated third-party wireless service providers. The Company's reportable segments include: Wireless, Cable, Wireline, and Other. See Note 17, Segment Reporting, included with the notes to our consolidated financial statements for further information regarding our segments. The following provides a description of the operations within our segments:

Wireless provides digital wireless mobile service as a Sprint PCS Affiliate in a multi-state area covering large portions of central and western Virginia, south-central Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and portions of Maryland, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Ohio, "our wireless network coverage area".  In these areas, we are the exclusive provider of Sprint-branded wireless mobility communications network products and services on the 800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum bands.  Wireless also owns 208 cell site towers built on leased and owned land, and leases space on these towers to both affiliates and non-affiliated third party wireless service providers.

Cable provides video, broadband and voice services in franchise areas in portions of Virginia, West Virginia, and western Maryland, and leases fiber optic facilities throughout its service area.

Wireline provides regulated and unregulated voice services, internet broadband, long distance access services, and leases fiber optic facilities throughout portions of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Additionally, our Other operations are represented by Shenandoah Telecommunications Company, the parent holding company, that provides investing and management services to the Company's subsidiaries.

Basis of Presentation

The Company adopted ASU No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (“Topic 606”), effective January 1, 2018, using the modified retrospective method as discussed in Note 3, Revenue from Contracts with Customers. The following tables identify the impact of applying Topic 606 to the Company for the year ended December 31, 2018:


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Year Ended December 31, 2018
 
 
Topic 606 Impact - CONSOLIDATED
 
($ in thousands, except per share amounts)
Prior to Adoption of Topic 606
Changes in Presentation (1)
Equipment Revenue (2)
Deferred Costs (3)
As Reported 12/31/2018
Service revenue and other
$
632,340

$
(86,637
)
$

$
16,753

$
562,456

Equipment revenue
8,298


60,100


68,398

Total operating revenue
640,638

(86,637
)
60,100

16,753

630,854

Cost of services
193,860



162

194,022

Cost of goods sold
28,377

(24,518
)
60,100


63,959

Selling, general & administrative
175,753

(62,119
)

(412
)
113,222

Depreciation and amortization
166,405




166,405

Total operating expenses
564,395

(86,637
)
60,100

(250
)
537,608

Operating income (loss)
76,243



17,003

93,246

Other income (expense)
(31,134
)



(31,134
)
Income tax expense (benefit)
10,926



4,591

15,517

Net income (loss)
$
34,183

$

$

$
12,412

$
46,595

 
 
 
 
 
 
Earnings (loss) per share
 
 
 
 
 
Basic
$
0.69

 
 
$
0.25

$
0.94

Diluted
$
0.68

 
 
$
0.25

$
0.93

Weighted average shares outstanding, basic
49,542

 
 
 
49,542

Weighted average shares outstanding, diluted
50,063

 
 
 
50,063

______________________________________________________
(1) Amounts payable to Sprint for the reimbursement of costs incurred by Sprint in their national sales channel for commissions and device costs for both postpaid and prepaid, and to provide on-going support to their prepaid customers in our territory were historically recorded as expense when incurred. Under Topic 606, these amounts represent consideration payable to our customer, Sprint, and are recorded as a reduction of revenue. In 2017, these amounts were approximately $44.8 million for the postpaid national commissions, previously recorded in selling, general and administrative, $18.7 million for national device costs previously recorded in cost of goods and services, and $16.9 million for the on-going service to Sprint's prepaid customers, previously recorded in selling, general and administrative.

(2) Costs incurred by the Company for the sale of devices under Sprint’s device financing and lease programs were previously recorded net against revenue. Under Topic 606, the revenue and related costs from device sales are recorded gross. These amounts were approximately $63.8 million in 2017.

(3) Amounts payable to Sprint for the reimbursement of costs incurred by Sprint in their national sales channel for commissions and device costs, which historically have been expensed when incurred and presented net of revenue, are deferred and amortized against revenue over the expected period of benefit of approximately 21 to 53 months. In Cable and Wireline, installation revenues are recognized over a period of approximately 10-11 months. The deferred balance as of December 31, 2018 is approximately $75.8 million and is classified on the balance sheet as current and non-current assets, as applicable.

Recent Developments

Big Sandy Broadband, Inc. Acquisition: Effective February 28, 2019, the Company completed its acquisition of the assets of Big Sandy Broadband, Inc., ("Big Sandy"). Big Sandy has served Eastern Kentucky for 56 years and is the leading provider of cable television, telephone, and broadband services in Johnson and Floyd counties. All customary closing conditions have been satisfied. The acquisition of Big Sandy furthers Shentel's strategy to expand the Company's cable segment with the addition of quality networks in contiguous markets. Big Sandy adds approximately 4,747 customers to Shentel's expanding Cable segment.

Credit Facility Modification: On November 9, 2018, the Company entered into an Amended and Restated Credit Agreement (the “amended 2016 credit agreement”) with various financial institutions (the “Lenders”) and CoBank, ACB, as administrative agent for the Lenders.  These amendments resulted in several changes for the Company.  The amended 2016 credit agreement reduced near term principal payments, extended the maturity of both Term Loan A-1 and A-2, allowed access to the Revolver for an extended period of time, and reduced the applicable base interest rate by 75 basis points.  It also shifted $108.8 million in principal from Term Loan A-1 to Term Loan A-2. See Note 14, Long-Term Debt for additional information.

Sprint Territory Expansion: Effective February 1, 2018, we signed the Expansion Agreement with Sprint to expand our wireless network coverage area to include certain portions of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, (the “Expansion Area”), effectively adding a population (POPs) of approximately 1.1 million. The agreement includes certain network build out requirements, and the ability to utilize Sprint’s spectrum in the Expansion Area along with certain other amendments to the Affiliate

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Agreements. Pursuant to the Expansion Agreement, Sprint agreed to transition the provision of network coverage in the Expansion Area to us. The Expansion Agreement required a payment of $52.0 million to Sprint for the right to service the Expansion Area pursuant to the Affiliate Agreements plus an additional payment of up to $5.0 million after acceptance of certain equipment at the Sprint cell sites in the Expansion Area. A map of our territory, reflecting the new Expansion Area, is provided below:
http://api.tenkwizard.com/cgi/image?quest=1&rid=23&ipage=12746333&doc=35

Other Events

United States Tax Reform: In December 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “2017 Tax Act”) was enacted. The 2017 Tax Act represented major tax reform legislation that, among other provisions, reduced the U.S. corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Certain income tax effects of the 2017 Tax Act, included approximately $0.8 million and $53.4 million of one-time non-cash tax benefits that were recorded in 2018 and 2017, respectively, principally due to the revaluation of our net deferred tax liabilities. See Note 16, Income Taxes, included with the notes to our consolidated financial statements for further information on the financial statement impact of the 2017 Tax Act.

Sprint Territory Expansion: Parkersburg - On April 6, 2017, we completed the expansion of our affiliate service territory, under our agreements with Sprint, to include certain areas in North Carolina, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia effectively adding approximately 500 thousand POPs in the Parkersburg, WV and Cumberland, MD areas.  The expanded territory includes the Parkersburg, WV, Huntington, WV, and Cumberland, MD, basic trading areas, (the "Parkersburg Expansion Area"). 

Acquisition of nTelos and Exchange with Sprint: On May 6, 2016, we completed the acquisition of NTELOS Holdings Corp. (“nTelos”) for $667.8 million, net of cash acquired.  The purchase price was financed by a credit facility arranged by CoBank, ACB.  We have included the operations of nTelos for financial reporting purposes for periods subsequent to the acquisition. For additional information regarding the acquisition of nTelos, please refer to Note 4, Acquisitions, included with the consolidated financial statements.

Results of Operations

Revenue


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We earn revenue primarily through the sale of our wireless, cable and wireline telecommunications services that include video, broadband, voice, and data services. We also lease space on our cell site towers and our fiber network. Our revenue is primarily driven by the number of Sprint subscribers that utilize our wireless network as well as the number of our customers that subscribe to our cable and wireline services, our ability to retain our customers and the contractually negotiated price of such services.

Operating Expenses

Our operating expenses consist primarily of cost of services, cost of goods sold, selling, general and administrative, acquisition, integration and migration expense related to the nTelos acquisition, and depreciation and amortization expenses, described as follows:

Cost of Services - Cost of services consists primarily of network-related costs attributable to the operation of our wireless, cable and wireline networks, including network costs, site costs for telecommunications equipment, and maintenance expenses, programming costs for our Cable operations, and expenses for employees who provide direct contractual services to our clients, including salaries, benefits, discretionary incentive compensation, employment taxes, and equity compensation costs. In 2017 and 2016 our cost of services also included network and maintenance related expenses incurred to integrate nTelos. Cost of services does not include allocated amounts for occupancy expense and depreciation and amortization. Overall, we expect cost of services to grow as we expand our network to capitalize on expansion opportunities in our market, which will require us to add additional staff, enter into additional tower and ground leases, and incur additional backhaul and network expenses.

Cost of Goods Sold - Cost of goods sold consists primarily of the cost of handsets and accessories for our Wireless subscribers. It excludes any allocation of depreciation and amortization. We expect cost of goods sold to grow as we expand our network to capitalize on growth of the subscriber base.

Selling, General and Administrative - Our selling, general and administrative expense consists primarily of employee-related expenses, including salaries, benefits, commissions, discretionary incentive compensation, employment taxes, and equity compensation costs for our employees engaged in the administration of sales, sales support, business development, marketing, management information systems, administration, human resources, finance, legal, and executive management. Selling, general and administrative expense also includes occupancy expenses including rent, utilities, communications, and facilities maintenance, professional fees, consulting fees, insurance, travel, and other expenses. In 2017 and 2016 our selling, general and administrative expense also included certain general expenses, such as severance, incurred to integrate nTelos. Our sales and marketing expense excludes any allocation of depreciation and amortization. We expect our selling, general and administrative expenses to increase as we strategically invest in our sales support organization to expand our business, both organically and in our newly-acquired Sprint Expansion Areas.

Acquisition, Integration and Migration - Our acquisition, integration and migration expense consisted primarily of costs required to migrate subscribers acquired in the May 2016 acquisition of nTelos to the Sprint billing and network systems, costs required to integrate the acquired nTelos administrative and operational support functions, severance costs for former nTelos employees who were not retained, transaction related fees; and gains or losses associated with the disposal of certain property. We completed the migration of nTelos subscribers to the Sprint network during 2017.

Depreciation and Amortization Expense - Our depreciation and amortization expense consists primarily of depreciation of fixed assets, and amortization of acquisition-related intangible assets. We expect our depreciation and amortization expense to increase as we expand our networks organically and through acquisitions.

Other Income (Expense)

Our other income (expense) consists primarily of interest expense, net gain (loss) on investments, and net non-operating income (loss), described as follows:

Interest Expense - Interest expense represents interest incurred on our Credit Facilities (as defined below, under the heading Financial Condition, Liquidity and Capital Resources, and in Note 14, Long-Term Debt). We expect our interest expense to fluctuate in proportion to the outstanding principal balance of the Credit Facilities and the prevailing London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") interest rate.

Gain (Loss) on Investments, net - Net gain (loss) on investments, consists of gains and losses realized as changes occur in the value of the assets and obligation underlying the Company’s Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan ("SERP")

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retirement plan. We expect our net gain (loss) on investments to fluctuate in proportion to the prevailing market conditions as they relate to our SERP assets and obligations.

Non-Operating Income (Loss), net - Net non-operating income (loss), primarily represents interest and dividends earned from our investments, including our patronage arrangement that is connected to our Credit Facility. We expect our non-operating income (loss) to fluctuate in proportion to the amount of funds we invest and the continuation of the patronage arrangement.

Income Tax Expense (Benefit)

Our provision for income taxes consists of federal and state income taxes in the United States, and the effect of the 2017 Tax Act, including deferred income taxes reflecting the net tax effects of temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities for financial reporting purposes and the amounts used for income tax purposes, and excess tax benefits or shortfalls derived from exercises of stock options and vesting of restricted stock.

We expect that in the near-term our effective tax rate may fluctuate due to the effect of the 2017 Tax Act and the recognition of excess tax benefits and tax shortfalls associated with the exercise of stock options or the vesting of restricted stock. Excluding discrete items impacting the effective tax rate, we expect our long-term tax rate to reflect the applicable federal and state statutory rates. Refer to Note 16, Income Taxes, included with the notes to our consolidated financial statements for additional information concerning income taxes and the effects of the 2017 Tax Act.


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Results of Operations

2018 Compared with 2017

The Company’s consolidated results from operations are summarized as follows:
 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
Change
($ in thousands)
 
2018
% of Revenue
 
2017
% of Revenue
 
$
 
%
Operating revenue
 
$
630,854

100.0

 
$
611,991

100.0

 
18,863

 
3.1

Operating expenses
 
537,608

85.2

 
565,481

92.4

 
(27,873
)
 
(4.9
)
Operating income (loss)
 
93,246

14.8

 
46,510

7.6

 
46,736

 
100.5

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Interest expense
 
(34,847
)
(5.5
)
 
(38,237
)
(6.2
)
 
(3,390
)
 
(8.9
)
Other income (expense), net
 
3,713

0.6

 
4,984

0.8

 
(1,271
)
 
(25.5
)
Income (loss) before taxes
 
62,112

9.8

 
13,257

2.2

 
48,855

 
368.5

Income tax expense (benefit)
 
15,517

2.5

 
(53,133
)
(8.7
)
 
68,650

 
129.2

Net income (loss)
 
$
46,595

7.4

 
$
66,390

10.9

 
(19,795
)
 
(29.8
)

Operating revenue
Operating revenue increased approximately $18.9 million, or 3.1%, in 2018 compared with 2017. Excluding the impact of adopting Topic 606, operating revenue increased approximately $28.6 million, or 4.7%, driven by the Wireless and Cable operations.

Operating expenses
Operating expenses decreased approximately $27.9 million, or 4.9%, in 2018 compared with 2017. Excluding the impact of adopting Topic 606, operating expenses decreased approximately $1.1 million, or 0.2%, primarily due to the absence of acquisition, integration and migration costs related to the completion of the transformation of the nTelos network in 2017 as well as lower depreciation and amortization costs due to the retirement of assets acquired with nTelos, partially offset by increased costs necessary to support our continued growth and expansion.

Interest expense
Interest expense decreased approximately $3.4 million, or 8.9%, in 2018 compared with 2017. The decrease in interest expense was primarily attributable to the 2018 amendments to the Credit Facility Agreement that reduced the applicable base interest rate by 75 basis points, partially offset by the effect of increases in the LIBOR.

Other income (expense), net
Other income, net decreased approximately $1.3 million, or 25.5%, in 2018 compared with 2017. The decrease was primarily attributable to a reduction in interest income related to the former nTelos equipment installment plan. The integration of the acquired nTelos business was completed during 2017.

Income tax expense (benefit)
Income tax expense increased $68.7 million from a $53.1 million benefit in 2017 to a $15.5 million expense in 2018. The increase was primarily attributable to growth in our income before taxes during 2018 and the one-time non-cash tax benefit of $53.4 million recorded in 2017 as a result of the reduction in the U.S. corporate income tax rate from 35% to 21% as the 2017 Tax Act became effective. The Company's effective tax rate increased from a benefit of 400.8% in 2017 to an expense of 25.0% in 2018. Refer to Note 16, Income Taxes for additional information concerning income taxes.

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Table of Contents

2017 Compared with 2016

The Company’s consolidated results from operations are summarized as follows:
 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
Change
($ in thousands)
 
2017
% of Revenue
 
2016
% of Revenue
 
$
 
%
Operating revenue
 
$
611,991

100.0

 
$
535,288

100.0

 
76,703

 
14.3

Operating expenses
 
565,481

92.4

 
512,762

95.8

 
52,719

 
10.3

Operating income (loss)
 
46,510

7.6

 
22,526

4.2

 
23,984

 
106.5

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other income (expense), net
 
(33,253
)
(5.4
)
 
(20,581
)
(3.8
)
 
12,672

 
61.6

Income (loss) before taxes
 
13,257

2.2

 
1,945

0.4

 
11,312

 
581.6

Income tax expense (benefit)
 
(53,133
)
(8.7
)
 
2,840

0.5

 
(55,973
)
 
(1,970.9
)
Net income (loss)
 
$
66,390

10.8

 
$
(895
)
(0.2
)
 
67,285

 
7,517.9


Operating revenues
Operating revenues increased approximately $76.7 million, or 14.3%, in 2017 compared with 2016. Wireless segment revenues increased $66.3 million compared with 2016; this increase was primarily due to the expansion of our Wireless network coverage area through our 2016 acquisition of nTelos. Cable segment revenue grew approximately $10.4 million, primarily as a result of a 1.2% growth in average revenue generating units and a 8.3% increase in revenue per subscriber. Wireline segment revenue increased approximately $4.3 million, led by growth in carrier access fees, fiber revenues and internet service revenues.

Operating expenses
Total operating expenses increased approximately $52.7 million, or 10.3%, in 2017 compared with 2016.  Wireless operating expenses increased approximately $58.4 million primarily due to our 2016 acquisition of nTelos that resulted in additional network costs required to support our expanded Wireless network, while operating expenses in our Other operations decreased approximately $6.8 million, primarily due to the completion of integration activities associated with the acquisition of nTelos. Cable and Wireline operating expenses increased approximately $1.6 million and $3.8 million, respectively. Within consolidated operating expenses, cost of goods and services sold increased approximately $18.0 million, selling, general and administrative expenses increased approximately $32.6 million, depreciation and amortization increased approximately $33.3 million, primarily due to our 2016 acquisition of nTelos. Increases in operating expenses were offset by a decrease in acquisition, integration and migration costs of approximately $31.2 million as a result of the completion of integration and migration activities related to the acquisition of nTelos.

Other income (expense)
Other expense increased approximately $12.7 million or 61.6% in 2017 compared with 2016, primarily due to an increase in interest expense due to borrowings, related to our acquisition of nTelos, under our credit facility that were outstanding for the full year 2017.

Income tax expense (benefit)
The Company’s effective tax rate decreased from an expense of 146.0% in 2016 to a benefit of 400.8% in 2017. The decrease is primarily attributable to the changes in federal tax regulations related to the 2017 Tax Act that was enacted during December 2017 and non-deductible transactions costs incurred in 2016. We are expecting our long-term tax rate to more closely reflect the applicable federal and statutory rates offset for any excess tax benefits or shortfalls related to vesting or exercise of equity awards.

We recognized an income tax benefit of approximately $53.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2017. This includes a one-time non-cash decrease of approximately $53.4 million in our net deferred tax liabilities as a result of the remeasurement of our deferred tax assets and liabilities as of December 31, 2017 to reflect the reduction in the U.S. corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The 2017 Tax Act also provides immediate expensing for certain qualified assets acquired and placed into service after September 27, 2017 as well as prospective changes beginning in 2018, including acceleration of tax revenue recognition, additional limitations on deductibility executive compensation and limitations on the deductibility of interest.


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Table of Contents

Wireless

Wireless earns postpaid, prepaid and wholesale revenues from Sprint for their subscribers that use our Wireless network service in our Wireless network coverage area. The Company's wireless revenue is variable based on billed revenues to Sprint's customers in the Sprint Affiliate Area less applicable fees retained by Sprint. Sprint retains an 8% Management Fee and an 8.6% Net Service Fee on postpaid revenues and a 6% Management Fee on prepaid wireless revenues. For postpaid, the Company is also charged for the costs of subsidized handsets sold through Sprint's national channels as well as commissions paid by Sprint to third-party resellers in our service territory. Sprint also charges the Company separately to acquire and support prepaid customers. These charges are calculated based on Sprint's national averages for its prepaid programs, and are billed per user or per gross additional customer, as appropriate.

Under our amended affiliate agreement, Sprint agreed to waive the Management Fees charged on both postpaid and prepaid revenues, up to approximately $4.2 million per month, until the total amount waived reaches approximately $255.6 million, which is expected to occur in 2022. The cash flow savings of the waived management fee waiver have been incorporated into the fair value of the affiliate contract expansion intangible, which is reduced, in part, as credits are received from Sprint.

The following table identifies the impact of Topic 606 on the Company's Wireless operations for the year ended December 31, 2018:
 
Year Ended December 31, 2018
 
 
Topic 606 Impact - WIRELESS
 
($ in thousands)
Prior to Adoption of Topic 606
Changes in Presentation (1)
Equipment Revenue (2)
Deferred Costs (3)
As Reported 12/31/2018
Service revenue
$
450,735

$
(86,637
)
$

$
16,720

$
380,818

Equipment revenue
7,410


60,100


67,510

Tower and other revenue
14,327




14,327

Total operating revenue
472,472

(86,637
)
60,100

16,720

462,655

Cost of services
131,166




131,166

Cost of goods sold
28,001

(24,518
)
60,100


63,583

Selling, general & administrative
109,657

(62,119
)


47,538

Depreciation and amortization
127,521




127,521

Total operating expenses
396,345

(86,637
)
60,100


369,808

Operating income (loss)
$
76,127

$

$

$
16,720

$
92,847

______________________________________________________
(1) Amounts payable to Sprint for the reimbursement of costs incurred by Sprint in their national sales channel for commissions and device costs for both postpaid and prepaid, and to provide on-going support to their prepaid customers in our territory were historically recorded as expense when incurred. Under Topic 606, these amounts represent consideration payable to our customer, Sprint, and are recorded as a reduction of revenue. In 2017, these amounts were approximately $44.8 million for the postpaid national commissions, previously recorded in selling, general and administrative, $18.7 million for national device costs previously recorded in cost of goods and services, and $16.9 million for the on-going service to Sprint's prepaid customers, previously recorded in selling, general and administrative.

(2) Costs incurred by the Company for the sale of devices under Sprint’s device financing and lease programs were previously recorded net against revenue. Under Topic 606, the revenue and related costs from device sales are recorded gross. These amounts were approximately $63.8 million in 2017.

(3) Amounts payable to Sprint for the reimbursement of costs incurred by Sprint in their national sales channel for commissions and device costs, which historically have been expensed when incurred and presented net of revenue, are deferred and amortized against revenue over the expected period of benefit of approximately 21 to 53 months. The deferred balance as of December 31, 2018 is approximately $75.8 million and is classified on the balance sheet as current and non-current assets, as applicable.

The following tables indicate selected operating statistics of Wireless, including Sprint subscribers:

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Table of Contents

 
 
December 31,
2018 (3)
 
December 31,
2017 (4)
 
December 31,
2016 (5)
Postpaid:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Retail PCS subscribers - postpaid
 
795,176

 
736,597

 
722,562

Gross PCS subscriber additions - postpaid
 
190,334

 
173,871

 
132,593

Net PCS subscriber additions (losses) - postpaid
 
58,579

 
14,035

 
5,085

PCS average monthly retail churn % - postpaid
 
1.82
%
 
2.04
%
 
1.84
%
Prepaid:
 
 
 
 
 
 
Retail PCS subscribers - prepaid (1)
 
258,704

 
225,822

 
206,672

Gross PCS subscriber additions - prepaid (1)
 
150,662

 
151,926

 
102,352

Net PCS subscriber additions (losses) - prepaid (1)
 
32,882

 
19,150

 
(58,643
)
PCS average monthly retail churn % - prepaid (1)
 
4.45
%
 
5.07
%
 
6.72
%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
PCS market POPS (000) (2)
 
7,023

 
5,942

 
5,536

PCS covered POP (000) (2)
 
6,109

 
5,272

 
4,807

CDMA base stations (sites)
 
1,853

 
1,623

 
1,467

Towers owned
 
208

 
192

 
196

Non-affiliate cell site leases
 
193

 
192

 
202

_______________________________________________________
(1)
As of September 2017, the Company is no longer including Lifeline subscribers to be consistent with Sprint's policy. Historical customer counts have been adjusted accordingly.
(2)
"POPS" refers to the estimated population of a given geographic area.  Market POPS are those within a market area which we are authorized to serve under our Sprint PCS affiliate agreements, and Covered POPS are those covered by our network. The data source for POPS is U.S. census data. Historical periods previously referred to other third party population data and have been recast to refer to U.S. census data.
(3)
Beginning February 1, 2018 includes Richmond Expansion Area except for gross PCS subscriber additions.
(4)
Beginning April 6, 2017 includes Parkersburg Expansion Area except for gross PCS subscriber additions.
(5)
Beginning May 6, 2016 includes acquired nTelos Area except for gross PCS subscriber additions.

The subscriber statistics shown above, excluding gross additions, include the following:
 
 
February 1,
2018
 
April 6,
2017
 
May 6,
2016
 
 
Expansion Area
 
Expansion Area
 
nTelos Area
PCS subscribers - postpaid
 
38,343

 
19,067

 
404,965

PCS subscribers - prepaid (1)
 
15,691

 
4,517

 
154,944

Acquired PCS market POPS (000)
 
1,082

 
511

 
3,099

Acquired PCS covered POPS (000)
 
602

 
244

 
2,298

Acquired CDMA base stations (sites) (2)
 
105

 

 
868

Towers
 

 

 
20

Non-affiliate cell site leases
 

 

 
10

_______________________________________________________
(1)
Excludes Lifeline subscribers.
(2)
As of December 31, 2018 we have shut down 107 overlap sites associated with the nTelos Area.
  

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Table of Contents

2018 Compared with 2017

Wireless results from operations are summarized as follows:
 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
Change
($ in thousands)
 
2018
% of Revenue
 
2017
% of Revenue
 
$
 
%
Wireless operating revenue
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wireless service revenue
 
$
380,818

82.3
 
$
431,184

94.7
 
(50,366
)
 
(11.7
)
Tower lease revenue
 
11,622

2.5
 
11,604

2.5
 
18

 
0.2

Equipment revenue
 
67,510

14.6
 
9,467

2.1
 
58,043

 
613.1

Other revenue
 
2,705

0.6
 
2,823

0.7
 
(118
)
 
(4.2
)
Total wireless operating revenue
 
462,655

100.0
 
455,078

100.0
 
7,577

 
1.7

Wireless operating expenses
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cost of services
 
131,166

28.4
 
129,626

28.5
 
1,540

 
1.2

Cost of goods sold
 
63,583

13.7
 
22,653

5.0
 
40,930

 
180.7

Selling, general and administrative
 
47,538

10.3
 
118,257

26.0
 
(70,719
)
 
(59.8
)
Acquisition, integration and migration expenses
 

 
10,793

2.4
 
(10,793
)
 
(100.0
)
Depreciation and amortization
 
127,521

27.6
 
139,610

30.7
 
(12,089
)
 
(8.7
)
Total wireless operating expenses
 
369,808

79.9
 
420,939

92.5
 
(51,131
)
 
(12.1
)
Wireless operating income (loss)
 
$
92,847

20.1
 
$
34,139

7.5
 
58,708

 
172.0


Operating revenue
Wireless operating revenue increased approximately $7.6 million, or 1.7%, in 2018 compared with 2017. Excluding the impact of Topic 606, wireless operating revenue increased approximately $17.4 million, or 3.8%. This increase was driven by growth in postpaid and prepaid PCS subscribers, improvements in average monthly churn, and was partially offset by a decline in postpaid average revenue per subscriber primarily related to promotions and discounts.

As a result of the adoption of Topic 606 in 2018, wireless service revenue was reduced by approximately $86.6 million of costs payable to Sprint, our customer, related to the reimbursement to Sprint for costs incurred in their national sales channel for commissions and device costs for both postpaid and prepaid, and to provide ongoing support to their prepaid customers in our territory. Commissions, device costs and costs for ongoing support of Sprint's prepaid customers were previously recorded as operating expenses. Additionally, we recorded $60.1 million of equipment revenue and cost of goods sold for the sale of devices under Sprint’s device financing and lease programs. Prior to the adoption of Topic 606, equipment costs were presented net of equipment revenue.

The table below provides additional detail for Wireless service revenue.

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Table of Contents

 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
Change
($ in thousands)
 
2018
 
2017
 
$
 
%
Wireless service revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Postpaid billings (1)
 
$
383,235

 
$
372,237

 
10,998

 
3.0

Amortization of deferred contract and other costs (3)
 
(18,742
)
 

 
18,742

 
100.0

Management fee
 
(30,749
)
 
(29,857
)
 
892

 
3.0

Net service fee
 
(32,969
)
 
(30,751
)
 
2,218

 
7.2

Total postpaid service revenue
 
300,775

 
311,629

 
(10,854
)
 
(3.5
)
Prepaid billings (2)
 
111,462

 
103,161

 
8,301

 
8.0

Amortization of deferred contract and other costs (3)
 
(52,846
)
 

 
52,846

 
100.0

Sprint management fee
 
(7,014
)
 
(6,189
)
 
825

 
13.3

Total prepaid service revenue
 
51,602

 
96,972

 
(45,370
)
 
(46.8
)
Travel and other revenue (2)
 
28,441

 
22,583

 
5,858

 
25.9

Total service revenue
 
$
380,818

 
$
431,184

 
(50,366
)
 
(11.7
)
_______________________________________________________
(1)
Postpaid net billings are defined under the terms of the affiliate contract with Sprint to be the gross billings to customers within our wireless network coverage area less billing credits and adjustments and allocated write-offs of uncollectible accounts.
(2)
The Company includes Lifeline subscribers revenue within travel and other revenue to be consistent with Sprint. The above table reflects the reclassification of the related Assurance Wireless prepaid revenue from prepaid gross billings to travel and other revenue.
(3)
Due to the adoption of Topic 606, costs reimbursed to Sprint for commission and acquisition cost incurred in their national sales channel are recorded as a reduction of revenue and amortized over the period of benefit. Additionally, costs reimbursed to Sprint for the support of their prepaid customer base are recorded as a reduction of revenue. These costs were previously recorded in cost of goods sold, and selling, general and administrative.

The decline in postpaid service revenue during 2018 was primarily the result of the adoption of Topic 606. Excluding the impact of adopting Topic 606, postpaid service revenue increased approximately $6.2 million or 2.0%, primarily due to growth of approximately 58.6 thousand postpaid PCS retail subscribers and an improvement in postpaid PCS average monthly retail churn, partially offset by a decline in average revenue per subscriber. The growth in our postpaid PCS retail subscribers includes approximately 38.3 thousand acquired with the Richmond Expansion Area. Postpaid service revenue was further reduced by approximately $2.2 million due to an increase in net service fee as nTelos subscribers were migrated to Sprint’s billing and back-office systems. The migration of these subscribers resulted in the elimination of costs to operate the nTelos back-office systems which were recorded in selling, general and administrative.

The decline in prepaid service revenue during 2018, was primarily the result of the adoption of Topic 606. Excluding the impact of adopting Topic 606, prepaid service revenue increased approximately $7.5 million or 7.7% due to growth of approximately 32.9 thousand prepaid PCS retail subscribers, improvements in prepaid PCS average monthly retail churn and average revenue per subscriber. The growth in our prepaid PCS retail subscribers includes approximately 15.7 thousand subscribers acquired with the Richmond Expansion Area.

Travel and other revenue increased $5.9 million, or 25.9%, in 2018 compared with 2017, primarily due to Lifeline subscribers acquired through our expansion events.

Cost of services
Cost of services increased approximately $1.5 million, or 1.2%, in 2018 compared with 2017, primarily due to the expansion of our network and wireless network coverage area and was partially offset by repricing Wireless backhaul circuits to market rates and migrating Wireless voice traffic from traditional circuit-switched facilities to more cost effective VoIP facilities.

Cost of goods sold
Cost of goods sold increased approximately $40.9 million, or 180.7%, in 2018 compared with 2017. The increase in costs of goods sold was primarily the result of the reclassification of approximately $60.1 million of expenses for equipment costs, which were previously classified as reductions of revenue, and was partially offset by $24.5 million of costs incurred for subsidy loss reimbursements that are now presented within revenue, driven by the adoption of Topic 606. Excluding the impact of the adoption of Topic 606, cost of goods sold increased approximately $5.3 million, or 23.6% due to an increase in equipment costs primarily related to prepaid handsets.

Selling, general and administrative
Selling, general and administrative costs decreased approximately $70.7 million, or 59.8%, in 2018 compared with 2017. The decrease in selling, general and administrative was primarily attributable to the reclassification of approximately $62.1 million of

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Table of Contents

commissions and subscriber acquisition costs to reductions of revenue as required by the adoption of Topic 606. Excluding the impact of Topic 606, selling, general and administrative costs decreased approximately $8.6 million, or 7.3% primarily due to a reduction of back-office expenses required to support former nTelos subscribers that migrated to the Sprint back-office during 2017.

Acquisition, integration and migration expenses
Acquisition and integration costs were not incurred during 2018, as the completion of integration and migration activities related to the acquisition of nTelos was completed during 2017.

Depreciation and amortization
Depreciation and amortization decreased approximately $12.1 million, or 8.7%, in 2018 compared with 2017, primarily due to the retirement of assets acquired in the nTelos acquisition.

2017 Compared with 2016

Wireless results from operations are summarized as follows:
 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
Change
($ in thousands)
 
2017
% of Revenue
 
2016
% of Revenue
 
$
 
%
Wireless operating revenue
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Wireless service revenue
 
$
431,184

94.7
 
$
359,769

92.5
 
71,415

 
19.9

Tower lease revenue
 
11,604

2.5
 
11,279

2.9
 
325

 
2.9

Equipment revenue
 
9,467

2.1
 
10,674

2.7
 
(1,207
)
 
(11.3
)
Other revenue
 
2,823

0.7
 
7,031

1.9
 
(4,208
)
 
(59.8
)
Total wireless operating revenue
 
455,078

100.0
 
388,753

100.0
 
66,325

 
17.1

Wireless operating expenses
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cost of goods and services
 
152,279

33.5
 
133,113

34.2
 
19,166

 
14.4

Selling, general and administrative
 
118,257

26.0
 
95,851

24.7
 
22,406

 
23.4

Acquisition, integration and migration expenses
 
10,793

2.4
 
25,927

6.7
 
(15,134
)
 
(58.4
)
Depreciation and amortization
 
139,610

30.7
 
107,621

27.7
 
31,989

 
29.7

Total wireless operating expenses
 
420,939

92.5
 
362,512

93.2
 
58,427

 
16.1

Wireless operating income (loss)
 
$
34,139

7.5
 
$
26,241

6.8
 
7,898

 
30.1


Operating revenue
Wireless service revenue increased approximately $71.4 million, or 19.9%, in 2017 compared with 2016, primarily due subscriber growth related to the expansion of our wireless network coverage area that was driven by our 2016 acquisition of nTelos and was offset by a decline in revenue per subscriber as a higher percentage of Sprint's postpaid customer base moved from higher revenue subsidized phone price plans to lower phone price plans associated with leased and installment sales.  Postpaid net billings increased approximately $57.7 million, or 18.3%, as Postpaid Retail PCS Subscribers increased 1.9% primarily due to new subscribers from nTelos. Prepaid net billings increased $23.1 million, or 28.9%, due to 9.3% growth in Prepaid Retail PCS Subscribers and higher average revenue per subscriber due to improvements in product mix. Travel and other revenues increased $4.0 million due to a full year of travel revenue in the former nTelos service area compared to eight months in 2016.

Equipment revenue decreased approximately $1.2 million or 11.3%, driven by a decline in handset sales as more subscribers are leasing their handsets directly from Sprint, and as of August 2017, the Company is no longer being compensated for accessory sales through Sprint's national retailer channel.

Other revenue decreased $4.2 million, or 59.8%, in 2017 compared with the same period in 2016 primarily due to the migration of the nTelos subscribers to the Sprint billing platform and corresponding reduction in regulatory recovery revenues that we billed the subscribers from the former nTelos platform prior to their migration.

The table below provides additional detail for Wireless service revenue.


46

Table of Contents

 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
Change
($ in thousands)
 
2017
 
2016
 
$
 
%
Wireless service revenue:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Postpaid billings (1)
 
$
372,237

 
$
314,579

 
57,658

 
18.3
Management fee
 
(29,857
)
 
(25,543
)
 
4,314

 
16.9
Net service fee
 
(30,751
)
 
(22,953
)
 
7,798

 
34.0
Total postpaid service revenue
 
311,629

 
266,083

 
45,546

 
17.1
Prepaid billings (2)
 
103,161

 
80,056

 
23,105

 
28.9
Sprint management fee
 
(6,189
)
 
(4,960
)
 
1,229

 
24.8
Total prepaid service revenue
 
96,972

 
75,096

 
21,876

 
29.1
Travel and other revenue (2)
 
22,583

 
18,590

 
3,993

 
21.5
Total service revenue
 
$
431,184

 
$
359,769

 
71,415

 
19.9

 ________________________________

1) Postpaid net billings are defined under the terms of the affiliate contract with Sprint to be the gross billings to customers within our wireless network coverage area less billing credits and adjustments and allocated write-offs of uncollectible accounts.
2) The Company is no longer including Lifeline subscribers to be consistent with Sprint. The above table reflects the reclassification of the related Assurance Wireless prepaid revenue from prepaid gross billings to travel and other revenues for both years shown.

Cost of goods and services
Cost of goods and services increased approximately $19.2 million, or 14.4%, in 2017 compared with 2016 due to the expansion of our network as a result of our 2016 acquisition of nTelos. Network costs increased $22.7 million, while maintenance costs increased $2.8 million and are both primarily attributable to a full year of nTelos and the expansion of our network and wireless network coverage area. Handset costs decreased approximately $7.0 million due to the completion of the migration of nTelos subscribers to the Sprint platform.

Selling, general and administrative
Selling, general and administrative costs increased approximately $22.4 million, or 23.4%, in 2017 compared with 2016 primarily due to the expansion of our network as a result of our 2016 acquisition of nTelos.  Expenses associated with prepaid wireless programs increased approximately $14.1 million in 2017 compared with 2016 as a result of the nTelos acquisition. Advertising and sales expenses increased $13.2 million as a result of our marketing campaigns aimed at POPS in our expanded wireless network coverage area. Integration costs classified as selling, general and administrative, associated with our acquisition of nTelos decreased approximately $3.8 million as a result of the 2017 completion of our migration and integration efforts. Customer service costs also decreased by approximately $1.1 million compared to 2016.

Acquisition, integration and migration expenses
Acquisition, integration and migration expenses decreased approximately $15.1 million as we completed the migration of subscribers from the nTelos billing platform to the Sprint network and billing platform.

Depreciation and amortization
Depreciation and amortization increased $32.0 million, or 29.7%, in 2017 over 2016, reflecting the amortization of tangible and intangible assets acquired in the nTelos acquisition.

Cable

Cable provides video, broadband and voice services in franchise areas in portions of Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland, and leases fiber optic facilities throughout its service area. It does not include video, broadband and voice services provided to customers in Shenandoah County, Virginia, which are included in Wireline. The following table indicates selected operating statistics of Cable:

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December 31, 2018
 
December 31, 2017
 
December 31, 2016
Homes passed (1)
 
185,133

 
184,910

 
184,710

Customer relationships (2)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Video users
 
41,269

 
44,269

 
48,512

Non-video customers
 
38,845

 
33,559

 
28,854

Total customer relationships
 
80,114

 
77,828

 
77,366

Video
 
 
 
 
 
 
Customers (3)
 
43,600

 
46,613

 
50,618

Penetration (4)
 
23.6
%
 
25.2
%
 
27.4
%
Digital video penetration (5)
 
78.8
%
 
76.2
%
 
77.4
%
Broadband
 
 
 
 
 
 
Available homes (6)
 
185,133

 
184,910

 
183,826

Users (3)
 
68,179

 
63,918

 
60,495

Penetration (4)
 
36.8
%
 
34.6
%
 
32.9
%
Voice
 
 
 
 
 
 
Available homes (6)
 
185,133

 
182,379

 
181,089

Users (3)
 
23,366

 
22,555

 
21,352

Penetration (4)
 
12.6
%
 
12.4
%
 
11.8
%
Total revenue generating units (7)
 
135,145

 
133,086

 
132,465

Fiber route miles
 
3,514

 
3,356

 
3,137

Total fiber miles (8)
 
138,648

 
122,011

 
92,615

Average revenue generating units
 
133,109

 
132,759

 
131,218

_______________________________________________________
(1)
Homes and businesses are considered passed (“homes passed”) if we can connect them to our distribution system without further extending the transmission lines.  Homes passed is an estimate based upon the best available information.
(2)
Customer relationships represent the number of billed customers who receive at least one of our services.
(3)
Generally, a dwelling or commercial unit with one or more television sets connected to our distribution system counts as one video customer.  Where services are provided on a bulk basis, such as to hotels and some multi-dwelling units, the revenue charged to the customer is divided by the rate for comparable service in the local market to determine the number of customer equivalents included in the customer counts shown above. 
(4)
Penetration is calculated by dividing the number of users by the number of homes passed or available homes, as appropriate.
(5)
Digital video penetration is calculated by dividing the number of digital video users by total video users.  Digital video users are video customers who receive any level of video service via digital transmission.  A dwelling with one or more digital set-top boxes or digital adapters counts as one digital video user.
(6)
Homes and businesses are considered available (“available homes”) if we can connect them to our distribution system without further extending the transmission lines and if we offer the service in that area.
(7)
Revenue generating units are the sum of video, voice and high-speed internet users.
(8)
Total fiber miles are measured by taking the number of fiber strands in a cable and multiplying that number by the route distance.  For example, a 10 mile route with 144 fiber strands would equal 1,440 fiber miles.

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2018 Compared with 2017

Cable results from operations are summarized as follows:
 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
Change
($ in thousands)
 
2018
% of Revenue
 
2017
% of Revenue
 
$
 
%
Cable operating revenue
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Service revenue
 
$
114,917

89.1
 
$
107,338

90.1
 
7,579

 
7.1

Equipment revenue
 
695

0.5
 
724

0.6
 
(29
)
 
(4.0
)
Other revenue
 
13,291

10.4
 
11,100

9.3
 
2,191

 
19.7

Total cable operating revenue
 
128,903

100.0
 
119,162

100.0
 
9,741

 
8.2

Cable operating expenses
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cost of services
 
59,935

46.5
 
59,335

49.8
 
600

 
1.0

Cost of goods sold
 
295

0.2
 
14

 
281

 
2,007.1

Selling, general, and administrative
 
20,274

15.7
 
19,999

16.8
 
275

 
1.4

Depreciation and amortization
 
24,644

19.1
 
23,968

20.1
 
676

 
2.8

Total cable operating expenses
 
105,148

81.6
 
103,316

86.7
 
1,832

 
1.8

Cable operating income (loss)
 
$
23,755

18.4
 
$
15,846

13.3
 
7,909

 
49.9


Service revenue
Service revenue increased approximately $7.6 million, or 7.1%, in 2018 compared with 2017, primarily due to growth in our broadband and voice subscribers, video rate increases, and our customers selecting or upgrading to higher-speed data access packages.

Other revenue
Other revenue increased approximately $2.2 million, or 19.7%, in 2018 compared with 2017, primarily due to new fiber contracts and installation services that were driven by growth in our customer base.

Operating expenses
Operating expenses increased approximately $1.8 million, or 1.8%, in 2018 compared with 2017 due primarily to our investment in infrastructure necessary to support the growth of the cable and fiber networks.

The impact of the adoption of Topic 606, which deferred incremental commission and installation costs over the life of the customer, did not have a significant impact on operating expenses.

2017 Compared with 2016

Cable results from operations are summarized as follows:
 
 
Year Ended December 31,
 
Change
($ in thousands)
 
2017
% of Revenue
 
2016
% of Revenue
 
$
 
%
Cable operating revenue
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Service revenue
 
$
107,338

90.1
 
$
99,070

91.1
 
8,268

 
8.3
Other revenue
 
11,824

9.9
 
9,664

8.9
 
2,160

 
22.4
Total cable operating revenue
 
119,162

100.0
 
108,734

100.0
 
10,428

 
9.6
Cable operating expenses
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cost of goods and services
 
59,349

49.8
 
58,581

53.9
 
768

 
1.3
Selling, general, and administrative
 
19,999

16.8
 
19,248

17.7
 
751

 
3.9
Depreciation and amortization
 
23,968

20.1
 
23,908

22.0
 
60

 
0.3
Total cable operating expenses
 
103,316

86.7
 
101,737

93.6
 
1,579

 
1.6
Cable operating income (loss)
 
$
15,846

13.3
 
$
6,997

6.4
 
8,849

 
126.5

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Operating revenue
Cable service revenue increased $8.3 million, or 8.3% in 2017 compared with 2016. Internet service revenue increased approximately $6.3 million, or 13.8%, due to a 5.7% increase in internet subscribers, along with an improved product mix as new and existing customers increasingly move to higher-speed plans with higher monthly recurring charges. Video revenue, including retransmission consent fee surcharges, decreased approximately $0.3 million primarily related to a reduction in our video customers that was driven by video rate increases in 2017 required to offset higher programming costs. Voice revenue increased approximately $0.4 million due to 5.6% growth in voice revenue customers. A reduction of promotional discounts offered during 2017 also resulted in an increase in Cable operating revenues of approximately $2.0 million.

Other revenue grew approximately $2.2 million, primarily due to the addition of new fiber contracts in 2017.

Operating expenses
Cable cost of goods and services increased $0.8 million, or 1.3%, in 2017 compared with 2016 primarily as a result of growth in our network costs as a result of increases in line costs and pole rents.

Wireline

The following table includes selected operating statistics of the Wireline operations as of the dates shown:
 
December 31, 2018
 
December 31, 2017
 
December 31, 2016
Long distance subscribers
9,452

 
9,078

 
9,149

Video customers (1)
4,742

 
5,019

 
5,264

Broadband customers
14,464

 
14,353

 
14,314

Fiber route miles
2,127

 
2,073

 
1,971

Total fiber miles (2)