The Buildout: Charter gets $110M grant from Montana

This week in broadband builds: Charter wins grants in Montana and Minnesota; Kansas awards small providers; NTIA releases $40 million for tribes; Brightspeed and IQ Fiber announce network launches – and more.

The Buildout is a column from Light Reading tracking broadband network deployments. This week we're tracking fiber and wireless builds reaching roughly 200,000 locations across the US. Send us your news right here. Keep up with every installment of The Buildout here.

  • Montana awarded over $309 million in broadband grants this week, with the largest sum – $110 million – going to Charter. As per a press release, the granted projects will deploy broadband to roughly "62,000 families, small businesses, farms, and ranches in Montana." Of the locations served, "38,631 will be in unserved communities, 21,956 will be in underserved communities, and 1,300 will be in frontier communities." Funding for this round of state broadband grants comes from the American Rescue Plan. (Notably, reporting from Montana Free Press indicates local companies like KDS Fiber and Nemont Telephone Cooperative are not pleased about Charter's awards).
  • Minnesota awarded nearly $100 million to service providers to expand broadband coverage in what the state called "the largest single investment in broadband infrastructure in state history." The funding will go toward 61 projects, connecting 33,000 Minnesota homes and businesses in 48 counties. Funding sources include $50 million appropriated by the state legislature and $70 million from the American Rescue Plan (ARPA). The state caps its grants at $5 million per project, and funds can be used to "reimburse up to 50 percent of a grantee's eligible costs of deploying broadband infrastructure," according to a press release. The grant recipients include a mix of local companies and cooperatives, as well as Charter ($3.1 million across three projects), Comcast ($1.9 million) and Consolidated ($4.9 million).
  • Kansas awarded $23 million to six service providers to connect nearly 4,200 homes, businesses, schools and institutions in unserved and rural areas of the state. The awarded providers include IdeaTek ($7.9 million), KwiKom ($1.8 million), Mokan Dial ($6.9 million), PGB Fiber ($1.8 million), S&T Communications ($997,844) and WTC ($3.6 million), according to a press release. The total project cost will be roughly $30 million with matching funds from the providers. According to the governor's office, the state received 141 applications requesting $693 million in funds this round. The state's broadband grant money comes from the US Treasury Department's Coronavirus Capital Projects funds. This is the second of three rounds of awards to be made with those funds.

(Source: dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo)

  • The NTIA released $40.3 million through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) this week. According to a press release, the funding will go to nine projects through a mix of wireless and direct fiber broadband and "will directly connect 3,222 unserved Native American households that previously had no connectivity to high-speed Internet as well as businesses and anchor institutions." The tribes receiving funding are located in Arizona, California, Maine, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Oregon. Thus far, the NTIA has awarded nearly $1.7 billion to 130 tribal entities through the program.
  • Brightspeed finished its network expansion in and around Eutawville, South Carolina, bringing its service to an additional 3,000 locations. The build was funded with investments from Brightspeed and a state grant received in 2021 through South Carolina's Rural Broadband Grant Program. In a press release, Brightspeed said the project "provides the fiber and electronics equipment needed for high-speed connections up to 940 Mbps."
  • IQ Fiber announced that its fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network is live in Atlantic Beach, Florida. The company started its $12.5 million network deployment in Northern Florida earlier this year and is now serving customers, according to a press release. The privately funded company launched in 2021 and aims to reach 60,000 Northeast Florida homes with the first phase of its buildout.
  • Shenandoah Telecommunications Company ("Shentel") will embark on a "multimillion-dollar" upgrade to its network in Radford, Virginia, to deploy fiber-to-the-home. In a press release, Shentel said construction will begin in the second half of 2023 and will reach the "vast majority of homes and businesses" in the city by the end of 2024.
  • Metronet announced a partnership with the City of Moline, Illinois, to construct a full-fiber network. The company cited the construction price as a "multimillion" dollar project, fully funded by Metronet. Construction is set to begin spring of 2023 with the first customers connected "as early as fall of 2023," according to a press release. Metronet reportedly offers access to symmetrical speeds up to 10 Gbit/s.
  • Last week, Nebraska awarded 37 grants worth $20,351,778.01 from the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Program (NBBP). In a press release, the Nebraska Public Service Commission said it narrowed down from 115 applications. The 37 grants will go to 14 providers, reaching 2,438 underserved and unserved locations. Projects must be complete by June 6, 2024. Some of the providers that received awards include Cox ($1.9 million), Great Plains Communications ($2.8 million), Northeast Nebraska Telephone Company ($2.6 million) and Three River Communications ($603,352). See the full list of grantees here.
  • Kinetic announced progress on its work to bring its "gig-speed" fiber broadband to more than 26,000 homes and businesses in and around Canton, Georgia. In a press release, the company said it has invested over $500 million in the state over the past three years and is halfway done with its Canton construction, "with some 13,000 area homes and businesses already qualifying for Kinetic's fiber broadband." The company expects the full build will be complete in mid-2023.
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    Nicole Ferraro, editor, Light Reading, and host of "​​The Divide" podcast.

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