The Buildout: Four states get $794M for broadband; Wahzhazhe Connect to break ground

This week in broadband builds: States get $794 million for broadband plans; electric co-ops, Comcast win in Missouri; Conexon connects Florida's EREC; Wahzhazhe Connect to construct Osage Nation network – and more.

Nicole Ferraro, Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast

January 27, 2023

6 Min Read
Fiber optic cables lie on a construction site
(Source: dpa picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo)

The Buildout is a column from Light Reading tracking broadband network deployments. This week we're tracking fiber and wireless builds reaching roughly 380,000 locations across the US. Send us your news right here. Keep up with every installment of The Buildout here.

  • The US Treasury Department approved $794 million this week through the Capital Projects Fund to Alabama, Kentucky, Nevada and Texas for broadband buildouts intended to reach over 292,000 homes and businesses. In order to receive funding, states had to have their plans approved by the Treasury Department for broadband infrastructure projects offering speeds of at least 100/100 Mbit/s. State by state, Alabama is receiving $191.9 million to connect 55,000; Kentucky is receiving $182.8 million to connect 45,000 locations; Nevada is receiving $55.2 million to connect 40,000 locations; and Texas is receiving $363.8 million to connect 152,000 locations. Each state will hold competitive grant programs to distribute its funding. Since last year, the Treasury Department has awarded $4.5 billion in capital projects funds through the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) to 30 states to cover more than 1.2 million locations with broadband.

  • Wahzhazhe Connect, a broadband project of the Osage Nation, will break ground next week. The project is a $54.5 million-dollar broadband expansion, for which the Osage Nation received a $40.6 million grant from the NTIA's Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and a $13.9 million USDA ReConnect grant. According to a press release, the Wahzhazhe Connect project "will lay more than 200 miles of fiber optics and erect 16 towers throughout the Osage Nation service area." The network is expected to directly connect 3,158 unserved Osage Nation households "with fiber-to-the-home and/or fixed wireless to the home at qualifying speeds," says an NTIA project description. A ceremony kicking off construction is set for Monday, January 30, in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. [Ed. note: The Osage Nation rescheduled this project kickoff for February 6, "due to inclement weather."]

  • Charter Communications/Spectrum announced that its services are live for more than 1,235 homes and businesses in Lenoir County, North Carolina; as well as 480 homes and small businesses in Duplin County, North Carolina. The network builds are part of the company's $5 billion investment in unserved regions of the rural US, for which it was awarded $1 billion through the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to reach roughly 1 million locations across 24 states with broadband. Last week, Spectrum turned on broadband services for rural customers in regions of Georgia and Tennessee.

  • Missouri this week awarded $261 million through its Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, funded through ARPA, to 60 recipients for projects that are expected to expand broadband to 55,000 unserved and underserved locations across the state. Besides Charter's Spectrum, which received $11.8 million, the grants largely went to an assortment of local phone companies and electric cooperatives, with the biggest sum of $47.4 million going to White River Valley Electric Cooperative. All projects must deliver symmetrical speeds of at least 100 Mbit/s, according to the governor's office. See the full list of award recipients here.

  • Conexon Connect said that it was chosen by Florida's Escambia River Electric Cooperative (EREC) to build and operate a fiber broadband network for its service area. According to Conexon, which designs and constructs rural fiber optic networks, and further operates as an ISP through Conexon Connect, the project will "span approximately 600 miles of fiber network in Escambia County reaching over 4,000 electric member locations with an estimated cost of $24 million." Construction is expected to wrap up in mid-2024, with the first customers to get service "as early as Q3 2023."

  • Middle-mile infrastructure company Digital Access Ohio announced the launch of a new wireless tower to deliver broadband service to Tuscarawas County. According to a press release, Smart Way Communications will be the first provider to deliver last-mile service on Digital Access Ohio's open access middle mile network, reaching "as many as 2,400 households and 125 businesses in the area surrounding the tower." Formed in 2021, Digital Access Ohio is a partnership between Agile Networks and JobsOhio with a goal to "build, own, market, and operate up to 75 new telecommunication colocation tower sites." The companies plan to upgrade 135 existing towers in Ohio so wireless providers can offer last-mile service.

  • Comcast has finalized plans with Pierce County, Washington, to start construction on a "fiber-rich" broadband network that will reach 526 homes and businesses in the Key Peninsula. According to a press release, the project will cost approximately $5 million and is being funded in part by a $3.75 million ARPA grant. Pierce County, with a population of nearly 1 million, is the second-largest in Washington state, and has committed $15 million in ARPA funds to bridge its broadband gaps. Also this week, Comcast announced plans to expand its network to more than 2,600 residents and businesses in the town of Plainfield, Connecticut. The build is part of its broader investment in the state and follows an announcement last year that it would expand its network to Jewett City, Connecticut. Construction on both projects is expected to finish in 2023, reaching 5,100 additional homes and businesses in Eastern Connecticut, said the company.

  • Greenlight Networks announced that it is bringing its fiber network to "thousands" in New York's Hudson Valley, with services expected to be available in the town of Wallkill starting this summer. In a press release, the company said it will invest $9 million over the next year in network and infrastructure buildouts, and $57 million in the Hudson Valley over the next five years.

  • WideOpenWest (WOW) announced that it has officially added its first customers in one of its greenfield markets of Altamonte Springs, Florida. According to a press release, the company's fiber network officially passes over 1,000 locations in the region, and more customers will gain access to service as construction continues.

  • Last week, the Maine Connectivity Authority awarded over $34 million in "Connect the Ready" grants. The funding will cover 12 projects, reaching 31 communities across nine counties and will deliver broadband service to over 16,000 homes and businesses. According to a press release, the projects will also leverage "over $17 million in private investment from communities and service providers." Among the largest grant recipients was Consolidated Communications, which received $8.1 million for a network build in coordination with the Greater East Grand Economic Council. Local broadband provider Premium Choice Broadband was awarded the most grants, for six of the 12 selected projects, for a total of $9.1 million. The Maine Connectivity Authority said it received 29 grant applications this round with $102 million in requests and expects to award more funding this spring.

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The Buildout

About the Author(s)

Nicole Ferraro

Editor, host of 'The Divide' podcast, Light Reading

Nicole covers broadband, policy and the digital divide. She hosts The Divide on the Light Reading Podcast and tracks broadband builds in The Buildout column. Some* call her the Broadband Broad (*nobody).

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