This week in broadband builds: Wisconsin service providers get $43 million; USDA grants millions for tribal broadband; Glo Fiber to connect 40,000 in Maryland; GoNetspeed progresses in Connecticut and Maine – and more.

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

March 15, 2024

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 construction, grants and service launches reaching over 100,000 locations across the US. Send us your news at [email protected]. Keep up with every installment of The Buildout here.

  • The state of Wisconsin awarded $43.2 million in broadband grants this week. The funding, most of which came from the state's share of capital projects funding via the American Rescue Plan, will go toward 30 projects to connect 16,000 homes and businesses. Providers will also put up $68.3 million in matching funds. Grants were primarily awarded to local telecom providers and energy cooperatives. East Central Energy, an electric co-op delivering broadband as ECE Fiber, picked up two grants: $4.2 million (the largest single grant awarded) to reach 1,472 locations and $3 million to reach 1,177 locations. ECE Fiber will provide $5.1 million and $3.7 million in matching funds, respectively. Another cooperative, Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, which delivers broadband as SwiftCurrent Connect, picked up three grants ($3.5 million for 1,435 locations, $3.5 million for 1,130 locations and over $973,000 for 165 locations). The provider's total match is $12.6 million. In addition to local providers, Spectrum was awarded $2.9 million (with a $3.5 million match) to reach 857 locations; and AT&T was awarded three smaller grants totaling $2.3 million to reach 4,361 locations. AT&T's match requirement for each location is significantly higher than each of its awards, totaling $18.6 million for all three builds.

  • The USDA awarded $57 million for tribal broadband through the ReConnect program this week. The Oglala Sioux Tribe was awarded a grant for $35 million to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network connecting "3,300 people, 47 businesses, 55 farms and seven educational facilities" in the South Dakota counties of Bennett and Oglala Lakota. And the Choctaw Nation received a grant for $22 million to deploy a fiber network to nearly "2,000 people, 12 businesses and 100 farms" in Le Flore County, Oklahoma. The funding was announced by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development's Reservation Economic Summit (RES) in Las Vegas.

  • Shentel's Glo Fiber said this week that it has started engineering work to bring its fiber network to Frederick County, Maryland. Once complete, the new network will reach over 40,000 homes and businesses, according to a press release. Construction is set to begin this summer and is estimated to take 18-24 months.

  • GoNetspeed announced new projects and service launches in Connecticut and Maine this week. In Connecticut, the company launched services in initial construction areas of Manchester. Construction on the $5.8 million privately funded network commenced earlier this year and will be complete "by late spring," said GoNetspeed, reaching over 10,800 homes and businesses. Also in Connecticut, GoNetspeed said it will begin construction next month on an $8.8 million fiber buildout in Meriden, bringing broadband to more than 15,000 locations "as early as this spring." And in Maine, the company said it intends to build out a fiber network in the city of Hallowell, connecting "thousands" of homes and businesses by June. GoNetspeed is building out fiber networks in multiple states with private equity funds from Oak Hill Capital.

  • Windstream's Kinetic has started construction on a fiber network in Grand County, Arkansas. The project was funded with $8.2 million through the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and is expected to bring connectivity to 2,100 locations throughout the region. According to a press release, the new network will build upon Kinetic's prior $27.8 million fiber construction project in Grand County, completed in 2023. That project was funded with $10.8 million in state grants and an investment of more than $17 million from Kinetic.

  • Comcast said this week that construction is "ongoing" in parts of Mahoning County, Ohio, where the company is expanding its broadband network to 17,000 homes and businesses. Initial services are expected to launch this spring, with the full network slated for completion by 2025.

  • Spectrum added 400 homes in Wisconsin to its rural footprint this week. The company announced that it launched broadband services in rural Walworth County, Wisconsin, one of the regions where it was awarded funding through the RDOF. Spectrum was awarded roughly $1.2 billion through the program to expand broadband to 1.3 million locations across 24 states.

  • C Spire is expanding its fiber network to the regions of Robertsdale, Alabama, and Meridian, Mississippi. According to press releases, construction is underway in both regions and expected to be completed in the next 12-18 months, bringing broadband connectivity to "thousands of homes." C Spire announced plans in 2021 to invest $1 billion in fiber expansion over three years to reach 200,000 homes across Alabama and Mississippi.

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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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