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Broadband

The Buildout: Tennessee awards $447M for broadband

The Buildout is a column from Light Reading tracking broadband network deployments. This week we're tracking fiber and fixed wireless builds covering over 240,000 locations across the US. Send us your news right here.

This week in broadband builds: Tennessee doles out $447 million to 36 broadband grantees; Brightspeed, Charter and Lumos win in North Carolina; Colorado awards $23 million for 15 broadband projects; Redzone runs on ngFWA in Maine.

  • The FCC authorized $8.82 million in Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) awards for two providers on Tuesday. That includes $7.5 million in bids from E Fiber San Juan (an LLC of Emery Telecom) to build out to 1,085 locations in Utah. The FCC also approved $1.4 million in bids for wireless broadband provider Cyber Broadband to build out to 4,116 locations in Alabama.
  • AT&T announced a pending partnership with Martinsville, Indiana, to build fiber to more than 5,000 customers. The public-private project will cost $6.3 million, and construction will start when a final contract is signed by the two parties. The network buildout is expected to take under two years.
  • Tennessee awarded $446,770,282 in grants on Monday to expand broadband access to more than 150,000 unserved homes and businesses in 58 counties across the state. According to a press release, grantees will provide approximately $331 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment this round to $778 million. Grantees must complete projects within three years. Among the largest single recipients this round are United Telephone Company ($53.4 million to serve parts of Bedford, Giles, Lincoln, Moore, Maury and Williamson counties) and Charter Communications ($20.4 million to serve parts of Benton, Carroll, Loudon, McMinn, McNairy and Meigs counties). However, half of the funding (over $200 million) went to a collection of cooperatives and utility companies, including Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation ($17.5 million), Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation ($15.5 million) and Volunteer Energy Cooperative ($15.4 million), to name a few. Comcast and AT&T also received smaller grants of $2.2 million and $499,730, respectively. The full list of recipients is available here.
  • Brightspeed announced that it won $90 million in grants through North Carolina's Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology "GREAT" program, as part of a $206 million round of awards announced at the end of August. The award will enable Brightspeed to cover 38,000 locations across 29 counties. Brightspeed (via Connect Holding II, LLC) was the top winner in this round of GREAT grants, with additional grants going to AT&T, Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, Charter, Cloudwyze, Focus Broadband, Frontier, French Broad Electric Membership Corp, InfinityLink, Lumos, Optimum, Zitel and Zito Media. The $90 million award in North Carolina adds to Brightspeed's spate of build plans across the US. Most recently, the company announced its plans for New Jersey, where it aims to deliver up to 20,000 new fiber passings by the end of 2023, with an overall goal of reaching 72,000 New Jersey locations with fiber in subsequent years.
  • Back to North Carolina, Charter also announced its receipt of two more grants through the state's GREAT program. That makes 20 so far. The latest awards announced by the company support its builds in Cleveland County and Jackson County, North Carolina, where Charter said it will bring broadband to 2,220 homes and businesses. In Cleveland County, Charter received $4 million in GREAT grants toward a $6.3 million build to bring broadband with starting speeds of 300 Mbit/s to 1,120 homes and businesses. In addition to the $4 million GREAT grant, the county will contribute $700,000 and Charter will invest the remaining $1.5 million. And in Jackson County, Charter received $3.8 million from the state for a $4.5 million buildout to reach 1,100 homes and businesses. Charter will invest an additional $370,000 and the county will contribute $300,000 for the build. In addition to the 20 GREAT grants Charter has received so far, the company said it is awaiting review of 41 additional proposals that would allow it to cover 57,000 homes and businesses in the state.
  • Lumos, which received $7 million from North Carolina's GREAT program, announced plans for a $50 million capital investment in that state to "blanket the region" with 600 miles of fiber-optic technology. The build is expected to reach 35,000 residents and businesses in Durham and Orange Counties, said the company, with construction set to start in early 2023.
  • Colorado's Broadband Deployment Board (BDB) announced $22.8 million in broadband grants last week to go to 15 projects that will connect 4,268 households to high-speed Internet. Grant recipients are allowed two years to complete their projects. The largest grant this cycle of $4.56 million went to Viaero Wireless to serve 436 households in Adams County. (See the full list of grant recipients here.) The state has a goal of reaching 99% of Colorado households with high-speed broadband by 2027. Thus far, Colorado has awarded $51 million for 63 projects to cover 29,024 rural households.
  • Redzone and Tarana Wireless announced a new fixed wireless deployment in Litchfield, Maine, through which 1,500 households in a "densely-forested community" now have access to high-speed broadband. That includes 200 locations previously classified as unserved, said the companies. The deployment is using Tarana's Gigabit 1 (G1) next-generation fixed wireless access (ngFWA) solution, with 11 Tarana base nodes across four towers. In a press release, the companies said the deployment took under six months and was able to be completed "at 90% less cost and in one fifth the time the town had estimated to construct a fiber-to-the-premises network." (Related: The Divide: Tarana's CEO on why FWA isn't a 'stopgap to fiber')

[Ed. note: This story was updated on Tuesday, September 13, at 12 p.m. ET, to include news from the FCC and AT&T.]

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

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