The Buildout: Frontier, Shentel and more win in West Virginia

This week in broadband builds: West Virginia approves $32 million in broadband grants, new construction from Ozark Fiber, network launches from GoNetspeed, Gibson Connect and more.

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

August 4, 2023

4 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 new last-mile grants, construction and service launches reaching over 32,600 locations across the US. Send us your news here. Keep up with every installment of The Buildout here.

  • The state of West Virginia approved over $32 million in broadband grants through both the Line Extension Advancement and Development (LEAD) and Major Broadband Project Strategies (MBPS) programs. In a press release from Governor Jim Justice's office, the state said this funding will be combined with over $16 million in matching funds from providers for a total investment of over $48 million. The projects will deploy 793 miles of new infrastructure and bring broadband connectivity to over 6,000 locations. Among the grant recipients are Frontier, which was awarded a $6.3 million MBPS grant to cover 2,531 locations with fiber (Frontier will contribute $11.7 million for a total project cost of $18 million). Shentel also earned an MBPS grant worth $1.1 million (with the company providing a nearly $1.8 million match) to build fiber to 809 addresses. Armstrong Telecommunications was also awarded $3.4 million in MBPS funds to build fiber to 551 targeted addresses (providing $399,500 in matching funds). Other recipients include Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks Telephone, Micrologic and Prodigi. This round of funding follows an $18.6 million round of broadband grants awarded by the state in June. Funding for West Virginia's broadband programs currently comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and capital projects fund, as well as state revenue. West Virginia is also projected to receive $1.2 billion for broadband deployment from the federal government's Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

  • 650 households in Kentucky are now connected to broadband, representing the first homes to be connected via grant funds from the state's Better Internet Program, according to a press release from Governor Andy Beshear's office. The provider connecting those locations, Gibson Connect – the fiber arm of Gibson Electric Membership Corporation – received $4.7 million from the state to connect 1,704 homes and 270 businesses to broadband in underserved rural areas. The first round of Better Internet grants were awarded in June 2022, with $89.6 million going to 12 providers and local governments for 47 projects.

  • GoNetspeed this week announced that it completed construction on its fiber network in Bangor, Maine. The company committed $5 million to deliver high-speed broadband to 8,000 homes and businesses throughout the city. Also this week, GoNetspeed said customers in initial construction areas in Seymour, Connecticut, can now access the company's services. GoNetspeed is investing $4.4 million to build out in Seymour to ultimately reach 6,000 homes and businesses. GoNetspeed is building out across the Northeast with private equity funding from Oak Hill Capital and offering symmetrical speeds ranging from 300 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s.

  • Metronet, another ISP building out with private equity backing from Oak Hill Capital, in addition to KKR, announced this week that customers in "initial construction areas" of Portage, Michigan, can now access the company's services.

  • Ritter Communications announced this week that it invested $3.5 million to build out a fiber network in Marion, Arkansas. With construction completed in July, Ritter is currently connecting customers in Marion to its RightFiber service, which offers speeds up to 5 Gbit/s.

  • Ozark Fiber said it had started construction in Neosho, Missouri, where it's building out the city's first fiber network. According to a press release, the first phase of construction is expected to be completed by Q2 2024, "covering nearly all of the city." Neosho has 4,449 households, according to US Census data. Ozark Fiber will initially offer symmetrical speeds of up to 2 Gbit/s for Neosho residents, with future plans to offer up to 10 Gbit/s, said the company. Ozark Fiber is building out elsewhere in Missouri and acquired Missouri Telecom in January 2023.

  • Surf Internet held a recent groundbreaking ceremony to kick off its effort to bring fiber broadband to Waterloo, Indiana. In a press release, the company said it's contributing $1.2 million in Waterloo to deliver fiber to 905 homes and businesses and will pursue Indiana Next Level Connection (NLC) grant funding to expand beyond the area next year. The Waterloo project is slated for completion by November 2023, said Surf. This effort builds on Surf Internet's $1 million investment to build a fiber network for DeKalb County Schools, supplemented with funding from the FCC's E-rate program, completed last month. Surf – which services parts of Indiana, Illinois and Michigan – also started construction on a fiber network in Knox, Indiana, last week, for which it's investing $2 million, supplemented with a small state grant.

  • TDS Telecommunications is planning to start construction this fall on an all-fiber network in Grand Chute, Wisconsin. In a press release, the company said that 6,600 homes and businesses will have access to up to 8 Gbit/s speeds from TDS when construction is completed.

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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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