This week in broadband builds: Florida projects rake in ReConnect funds; Ting plans network in Thornton, Colorado; Conexon Connect build underway in rural Mississippi; WTC Fiber to expand in Manhattan, Kansas – and more.

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

February 23, 2024

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 new construction, grants and service launches reaching over 150,000 locations across the US. Send us your news at [email protected]. Keep up with every installment of The Buildout here.

  • The USDA this week awarded $51.7 million for broadband projects through the ReConnect ($42 million) and Broadband Technical Assistance ($9.7 million) programs. The funding was part of a larger federal investment of $770 million for rural infrastructure projects. ReConnect winners include IBT Group USA LLC ($24.2 million) to connect "8,678 people, 231 businesses, 11 farms and 34 educational facilities" in DeSoto County, Florida; and Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative Incorporated ($17.8 million) to connect "19,003 people, 482 businesses, 654 farms and 42 educational facilities" in the Florida counties of Columbia, Hamilton and Suwannee. In a press release, the USDA said that, under the Biden-Harris administration, the agency has invested "$3.7 billion in 338 ReConnect projects, financed in part by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, that will bring high-speed internet access to more than 485,000 people in the hardest to reach communities of rural America." The USDA said it will open applications for the fifth round of ReConnect grants on March 22, 2024. Meanwhile, the $9.7 million in awards made this week through the Broadband Technical Assistance program will go to 24 organizations in 17 states in order to help them "deliver or receive technical assistance to expand high-speed internet access for people in rural and Tribal communities" and to "develop and expand broadband cooperatives in rural areas," said the USDA. For example, one recipient, West Hills Community College District, serving California's San Joaquin Valley, was awarded $1 million toward its effort to establish the Rural Broadband Initiative Cooperative Network (RuBICON). That project is "aimed at providing affordable broadband services to rural communities and farms in the Central Valley," according to local reporting, and is currently accepting applications for a project director.

Related:The Divide: Ting CEO Elliot Noss on mid-market fiber and the 'last war' of broadband pricing

  • Conexon Connect has started construction in Mississippi on a fiber network that's expected to deliver multi-gigabit broadband to more than 20,000 rural residents. The build is associated with Conexon's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) awards, and the new network will reach customers in the counties of Adams, Amite, Claiborne, Copiah, Franklin, Hinds, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lincoln, Marion, Pike, Walthall, Warren and Wilkinson. Initial service is expected to launch by mid-2024, says a press release. According to a spokesperson, Conexon is collaborating with Magnolia Electric on the project but will construct and operate the network itself. Conexon is currently passing over 360,000 homes in the state through its fiber network partnerships with nine electric co-ops. The company said it expects to start fiber builds in "two additional states in the coming months."

  • Ting this week said it will start construction in March on a fiber network in Thornton, Colorado. The company said the build will reach nearly 60,000 locations, with some service coming online by June 2024. Construction on the full project is slated for completion by the end of 2028, said Ting in a press release. As part of its agreement with the city, Ting said it will expand the city's network infrastructure by 50,000 feet and provide free Wi-Fi to "at least four public parks."

  • The city of Manhattan, Kansas, is getting a new fiber network from WTC Fiber. The company announced a $50 million privately funded fiber expansion project this week that will bring broadband to the full city. Pre-construction activities are underway, and WTC is estimating the build to take up to 36 months, "depending on material availability and weather conditions." According to the latest census data, there are 21,428 households in Manhattan, Kansas.

  • Spectrum launched services in more regions associated with its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) obligations. In Tennessee, the company said it launched services for 2,700 homes and businesses in "rural and previously unserved parts of Carroll, Hardin, Henderson and Chester Counties," and for nearly 3,000 homes and businesses in rural and previously unserved parts of McNairy County. In addition to RDOF, Spectrum received funding for both builds through the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan (TEBF-ARP) program. And in Wisconsin, Spectrum launched broadband services for 650 homes and businesses in Dodge County; and 750 homes and businesses throughout Eau Claire County.

  • Part one of a NTIA-funded fiber and wireless project is kicking off in Southern Guam, according to local reporting. The project, known as the Guam Broadband Infrastructure Program, is a middle- and last-mile effort to connect 10,000 unserved households across the region. Part one of the project, for which micro-trenching work is currently underway, will see regional provider IT&E build out the "Guam Southern Ring Buried Fiber Optic Cable and 5G Project." That includes constructing 72.7 miles of 144-strand buried fiber optic cable and 26 5G cell sites along major routes in Southern Guam, according to the NTIA's summary of Broadband Infrastructure Program award winners. Part two of the project, overseen by the Guam Telephone Company (GTA), will "deliver low latency service of ~40ms to the entire territory of Guam." The entire project was awarded $12.77 million from the NTIA; $11.4 million for IT&E and $1.5 million for GTA.

  • GoNetspeed said it will start construction this spring to bring its broadband network to Gardiner, Maine. The company, which is funded by Oak Hill Capital, will invest $1.2 million to deliver service to roughly 1,200 locations. Service is expected to launch in initial neighborhoods by the end of spring 2024, said the company.

  • Novos Fiber, which is funded by private investment firm InLight Capital, said it will invest $20 million to bring its fiber network to McKinney, Texas. The move marks the company's second market, following its prior $25 million investment in Arlington, Texas. Construction in McKinney is underway with initial services expected to launch by the end of February.

  • Ziply Fiber last week said it started construction on a new network in Coupeville, Washington. The fiber network is expected to serve more than 850 homes and businesses, with the first 200 addresses currently eligible for service. The remaining locations will come online "over the next several weeks," said Ziply.

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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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