The Buildout: Conexon selected by Georgia electric co-ops; York County gets Lit

This week in broadband builds: Conexon connects Georgia co-ops; Breezeline completes Chesapeake Bay construction; York County signs agreement with Lit Fiber – and more.

The Buildout is a column from Light Reading tracking broadband network deployments. This week we're tracking fiber builds reaching over 733,000 locations in the US. Send us your news right here. Keep up with every installment of The Buildout here.

  • Conexon Connect announced partnerships with two electric co-ops in rural Georgia this week: Mitchell Electric Membership Corporation (EMC) and Grady EMC. The co-ops each received state broadband grants for their buildouts in January, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), with $9.3 million going to Grady EMC to cover 3,620 locations; and $9 million going to Mitchell EMC for 3,093 locations. Both have tapped Conexon to help expand fiber and deliver broadband to their members. According to press releases, the builds will begin in Mitchell and Worth counties, where Mitchell EMC received a grant; and Grady County, where Grady EMC received grant funding. The Mitchell EMC build will see construction start this quarter and take three-to-four years to complete "with the earliest members expected to be connected by mid-year." The project aims to "ultimately expand fiber broadband access to all of Mitchell EMC's 15,764 members" and will cost approximately $80 million, said Conexon. Separately, Grady EMC and Conexon said they will seek additional funding "to expand fiber broadband access to all of Grady EMC's 13,000+ members across Grady, Decatur and Thomas counties."
  • York County, Pennsylvania, has finalized an agreement for Lit Fiber - York (a subsidiary of Lit Communities) to deliver broadband to unserved and underserved areas and "eventually through the city itself." According to a press release, "York County Commissioners have approved using up to $25 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act infrastructure funds with the rest of the funding coming from revenue sharing, other public sources of funding, and private investment by Lit Communities and its partners." The last-mile project will comprise 3,125 miles of aerial and underground fiber optic cable, feeding off a 333-mile middle-mile network. Initial construction will be completed in two years. The network is expected to ultimately reach 328,000 locations.
  • Breezeline completed construction on a $7.2 million fiber-broadband network in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. The 150-mile network will serve more than 1,400 homes and businesses in Mathews, Caroline, Lancaster and Middlesex counties, said Breezeline. The project received a grant of $4.2 million from the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) grant, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Breezeline and the counties each contributed $1.5 million. The first customers were connected to the network in May 2022. With construction complete, Breezeline said it will be sending representatives door-to-door to discuss service offerings.

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

  • The US Department of Agriculture awarded $63 million in broadband grants through the ReConnect program to bring broadband to rural communities. Awarded projects include McDonough Telephone Cooperative ($18 million grant to build a fiber network connecting 1,583 people, 274 farms and 41 businesses to fiber broadband in Illinois); Alpha Enterprises Limited, Inc. ($19.5 million grant to build a fiber network connecting 1,023 people, 19 businesses and 10 farms to high-speed Internet in Michigan); Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative ($10 million to build a fiber network connecting 3,529 people, 71 businesses, 35 farms and two public schools in Minnesota); and Uplink Internet LLC ($15 million to build a fiber network connecting 2,340 people, 143 farms, 45 businesses in Mississippi).
  • Spectrum services went live in more regions this week. As part of Charter Communications' buildout in the rural US, for which it received $1 billion through the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), Spectrum turned on service for 50 homes and small businesses in Seneca County, Ohio; as well as 200 homes and small businesses in Rockingham County, North Carolina. Separately, Spectrum announced it completed a 27-mile fiber-optic network extension in Westport Island, Maine, to bring broadband to 205 homes. That build was funded with $550,000 from Spectrum, and $62,000 from the town in ARPA grants.
  • Metronet announced that it has invested more than $350 million to launch service "within a dozen new communities in six states" in the past several months. By the end of March, Metronet will be providing fiber service to homes and businesses in "Beavercreek, Oh., St. Joseph, Mo., Norfolk, Va., the Iowa cities of Waterloo, Sioux City, Iowa Falls and Des Moines, the North Carolina cities of Hope Mills, Jacksonville and Hickory, and the Florida cities of Palm Coast and Altamonte Springs," said the company in a press release. All told, Metronet said its network will reach 380,000 new residences and businesses when construction is complete.
  • The NTIA this week awarded nearly $3 million through the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program (CMC) to Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, Puerto Rico. According to a press release, the grant will fund the university's Accessing Broadband Connectivity (ABC) pilot program, through which it will "build and strengthen a robust and resilient broadband network by installing fiber optic cabling through existing underground and existing or refurbished above ground conduits throughout the campus." The grant will also fund training programs. The CMC program is a $268 million grant program funded through the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act. NTIA said it intends to award all remaining funds in the first quarter of 2023.
  • GoNetspeed completed construction on its $6.5 million fiber network in Vernon, Connecticut. Its service is now available to more than 7,600 homes and businesses spanning 87 miles, said the company. GoNetspeed is building out fiber networks in multiple states with funding from Oak Hill Capital.
  • WideOpenWest (WOW) announced this week that its first services are live in Headland, Alabama. The build is part of the company's fiber edge-out strategy and, according to WOW, now offers the fastest speeds available in the region.
  • Related:

    Nicole Ferraro, editor, Light Reading, and host of "​​The Divide" podcast.

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