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Broadband

The Buildout: More 'GREAT' news for Spectrum, Yellowstone Fiber goes live

The Buildout is a column from Light Reading tracking broadband network deployments. This week we're tracking fiber and fixed wireless builds covering roughly 2.5 million locations across the US and UK. Send us your news right here.

This week in broadband builds: Spectrum gets millions more in 'GREAT' grants; USDA ReConnect awards $502 million; Yellowstone Fiber goes live in Montana; NTIA awards $29.3 million for Alaskan tribes; Cajun Broadband breaks ground in Louisiana – and more.

  • Charter's Spectrum received multiple approvals this week for Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grants in North Carolina to bring its Spectrum broadband service to homes and businesses. The largest of those grants is $4 million to bring gigabit broadband to nearly 1,500 homes and small businesses in Richmond County. In addition to the $4 million grant, Spectrum will invest $4.8 million and the county will contribute $100,000, bringing the build total to $8.9 million.

    Separately, the company received a $3.7 million GREAT grant to bring broadband to more than 970 homes and small businesses in Lee County, North Carolina. With an additional $250,000 from Lee County and $400,000 from Spectrum, the full project cost is nearly $4.4 million. It also received $2.3 million through GREAT to reach nearly 570 homes and small businesses in Jones County, where Spectrum will contribute $1 million for a total project cost of $3.3 million.

    In another announcement, Spectrum said it won nearly $870,000 through GREAT to reach nearly 200 homes and small businesses in Haywood County. With an additional $100,000 from the county, that award is nearly $1 million. The company is still awaiting approval on several more GREAT grants to reach roughly 57,000 locations. As the state's largest provider, Spectrum currently serves 2.8 million customers in North Carolina.

  • In addition to its GREAT news in North Carolina, Charter/Spectrum also announced it launched broadband service of 300 Mbit/s to more than 320 homes and small businesses in Rock County, Wisconsin. The buildout was part of the company's $5 billion rural expansion, which includes $1.2 billion won through RDOF to bring broadband to roughly 1 million locations across 24 states.
  • The state of Louisiana announced that its first GUMBO-subsidized broadband project has started construction. The $1.5 million build by Cajun Broadband will bring fiber to over 500 locations in St. Martins Parish. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards also announced an additional $8 million for Cajun to deliver high-speed broadband to over 600 households in St. Martin, Acadia, Iberia and Evangeline parishes. The federal government has helped shine a light on Louisiana's broadband efforts, with NTIA's Andy Berke recently joining state officials to announce that Louisiana was the first state to receive planning grants of $2.9 million through BEAD and the Digital Equity Act. The state's broadband efforts have also received attention recently because of a dispute whereby cable provider Sparklight (Cable One) is trying to block Conexon from receiving a $4 million grant to build a fiber network in East Carroll Parish.
  • The federal government was pretty busy handing out funds for broadband this week. Going in reverse order: On Thursday, the USDA announced $502 million in ReConnect loans and grants for 32 projects in rural and tribal communities in Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. The largest grants included $33 million for Alaska Telephone Company to connect 211 people and five businesses with a fiber network, and $30.1 million for Arctic Slope Telephone to connect 476 people, 15 businesses and a public school to a fiber network in North Slope Borough, Alaska. The largest loan/grant combo was awarded to Pine Belt Telephone Company Inc. to connect 15,989 people, 608 businesses, 52 educational facilities and 407 farms to fiber in Alabama. All in, this latest round of awards will connect an estimated 96,810 premises across 20 states.
  • Also on Thursday, the NTIA awarded a $29.3 million Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program grant to the Native Village of Port Lions in Alaska for a fiber build in partnership with GCI. The grant will fund an extension of GCI's subsea fiber network to reach 930 unserved households. In a press release, the NTIA said it has now made 70 awards totaling $755.7 million through the $3 billion Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program funded through the infrastructure law.
  • On Wednesday, the FCC awarded roughly $55 million to schools and libraries through the Emergency Connectivity Fund. This latest round of awards is expected to help connect roughly 125,000 students across 200 schools, 20 libraries and two consortia. To date, the FCC has committed over $5.9 billion for schools and libraries through the Emergency Connectivity Program, according to a press release, providing nearly 12 million connected devices and over 7 million broadband connections to roughly 10,000 schools, 900 libraries and 100 consortia.
  • And on Tuesday, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced that the Department's Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding $1.8 million in American Rescue Plan funds to the city of Waterloo, Iowa, to expand Internet connectivity through a municipal middle mile fiber network that will support "business growth, telemedicine connectivity, and virtual educational opportunities," according to a press release. "The EDA investment will be matched with $667,682 in local funds and is expected to create 177 jobs, according to grantee estimates."
  • Meanwhile, Montana's first open access network Yellowstone Fiber went live for its first 175 residential customers in West Bozeman, Montana. Yellowstone (formerly Bozeman Fiber) is a $65 million buildout to bring open access fiber to all homes and businesses in Bozeman, Montana. The company, which has an operational partnership with Utopia Fiber, also hopes to build deeper into rural parts of Gallatin County, Montana, with the help of grant funding. According to Yellowstone's build-out timeline, it intends to reach an additional 1,898 addresses before the end of the year.

  • Related: Yellowstone Fiber sees no 'rational ROI' in rural Montana without federal funds


  • Nextlink Internet has tapped Tarana Wireless to help it deliver on its $429.1 million Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) buildout to connect more than 200,000 locations across 11 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. The companies said in a press release that Tarana's G1 platform is "uniquely placed" to deliver Nextlink's network which will include a mix of fiber and gigabit fixed wireless.
  • Kinetic by Windstream last week announced a fiber construction project to reach roughly 7,400 unserved homes and businesses in Greenup County, Kentucky. With two other fiber builds it has planned for the Eastern Kentucky region, the company said it will equip 28,000 locations with fiber "within the next three months." Kinetic is in the midst of a $2 billion fiber build in communities across its 18-state footprint.
  • According to local news reports, Mediacom Communications completed a $435,000, five-mile fiber installation in Wykoff, Minnesota, this week – making broadband service available to 235 homes and businesses. Construction on the network build started earlier this summer.
  • And in the UK, CityFibre said it has reached 2 million homes with its fiber rollout, including 1.8 million that are ready for service. The company is investing £4 billion (US$4.5 billion) to reach 8 million homes by 2025. In a press release, CityFibre said it reached its second million homes at a pace "three times faster than the first million."

Get more Buildout news below:

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

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