Today I’m thankful for Doug Dawson and that he follows broadband from all heights. Interesting to hear what the providers are thinking about any and all of the federal funding, especially coming off the cusp of the LTD Broadband RDOF snafu. (LTD won the opportunity to bid on $311 million in broadband projects, leaving target areas in limbo until the bid was accepted or not. In the end, their applications were rejected and the communities got nothing.)
Generally, some communities are lucky and they have providers who are invested in getting funding and building better broadband. Some communities work hard to build partnership with providers to get them invested to serve the community. And some communities have providers step in with plans that may be more ambitious than their experience or with plans that are more mediocre than a community wants.
Here’s a take on what Doug is seeing the providers do…
We’re finally starting to gain a picture of the plans of the big telcos for the upcoming BEAD grants. The bottom line is that some of the big telcos seem to be prepared to pursue the upcoming grants in a major way. Consider the following:
- At a recent industry conference, Frontier’s CFO said that Frontier has ambitious plans to pursue grants for all of the three to four million rural homes that it serves today with DSL.
- When the BEAD grants were first announced, AT&T added five million new passings to its goal for 2025, all due to pursuing rural grants. AT&T hasn’t said much about grants since that early announcement.
- Brightspeed, which purchased twenty states of copper networks from CenturyLink, has made it clear that it will be seeking state and federal grants to build as much fiber as possible. CenturyLink has been aggressively pursuing grants in the states sold to Brightspeed, for the obvious benefit of the new company.
- Windstream was a big winner in the RDOF reverse auction and has been aggressively pursuing ARPA funding. It seems obvious that the company will also pursue BEAD grants.
The two big telcos that have not said much about grants are CenturyLink and Verizon. There are rumors that CenturyLink is seeking somebody to buy the rest of its copper lines, but it also would not be surprising to see the company come out swinging for grant funding if a sale isn’t forthcoming. Verizon abandoned a rural strategy years ago, and it would be surprising but not impossible to see the company tackle grant funding if the math is good.
The other big ISP that has aggressively been pursuing grant funding is Charter. It would make sense for the company to pursue BEAD grants to fill in around where it has already won the RDOF auctions.