Friday, April 8, 2022
You’re reading the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s Weekly Digest, a recap of the biggest (or most overlooked) broadband stories of the week. The digest is delivered via e-mail each Friday.
Round-Up for the Week of April 4-8, 2022
When the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 became law on December 27, 2020, Congress allocated over $7 billion for initiatives to improve connectivity across the nation and to help close the digital divide. As part of this effort, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) became the steward of the new Broadband Infrastructure Program to support broadband deployment projects. What sets the Broadband Infrastructure Program apart from other federal funding initiatives is its focus on “covered partnerships” as recipients of its funding–that is, a public-private partnership between a state or subdivision(s) of a state and a provider of fixed broadband service.
Fast forward to February 25, 2022–and the NTIA announced the grantees which will receive a collective total of $277 million in Broadband Infrastructure Program funding. NTIA has since published further information on the 13 Broadband Infrastructure Program grantees. The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society previously detailed the Broadband Infrastructure Program’s purpose, eligibility requirements, evaluation criteria, and timeline. To qualify for the Broadband Infrastructure Program, the grantees had to be capable of providing service with: (A) a download speed of not less than 25 megabits per second; (B) an upload speed of not less than 3 megabits per second; and (C) a latency sufficient to support real-time, interactive applications. An eligible service area for a project is a census block in which broadband service is not available at one or more households or businesses in the census block. This article highlights the awards given to 5 states and 1 US territory–Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Washington, and Guam–offering a closer look at each grantees’ identified needs and broadband deployment objectives.
The ConnectMaine Authority
The ConnectMaine Authority is receiving $28,097,295 to deploy last mile broadband across multiple counties in Maine. The ConnectMaine Authority is Maine’s public arm in charge of facilitating the availability of universal broadband in the state. The ConnectMaine Authority’s project, named “Connect the Ready: the Mountains to the Sea” will reach unserved rural areas in Maine’s Lincoln, Knox, Hancock, Franklin, and Somerset Counties. The fixed broadband providers included in the public-private partnership are Consolidated Communications, Axiom Technologies, and LCI Fiber Optic Network. In total, the project’s cost (including the just over $28 million from NTIA) is $33,638,916.
Identified Needs of the ConnectMaine Authority’s Project
The funding will support last mile broadband deployment in rural Maine. The covered partnerships will carry out seven projects in rural areas of the state:
- The LCI/Jefferson project will extend fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service to 100% of all addresses in the town of Jefferson. LCI will extend its existing fiber optic transmission backbone to feed a central office to be built in Jefferson as a distribution hub. The project will provide broadband service from 50/10 Mbps at $49.95/month to 100/100 Mbps at $109.95/month.
- The Axiom/Somerville project will deploy Adtran fiber optic equipment in Sommerville to bring a dedicated fiber connection to each home and business. The project will provide symmetrical broadband service from 25 Mbps at $54.99/month to 1 Gbps at $169.99/month.
- The Axiom/Isle Au Haut project will deploy Adtran fiber optic equipment to Isle Au Haut, a small island off the coast of Stonington. The project will construct a 100 foot free-standing tower on the island with a central office at its base, from which FTTH will be distributed to each resident of the island at symmetrical speeds of 25 Mbps at $59.99/month to 100 Mbps at $109.99/month.
- The Axiom/Washington project will deploy Adtran fiber optic equipment in Washington to bring a dedicated fiber connection to each home and business. The project will provide broadband service from 25/25 Mbps at $54.99/month to 1000/1000 Mbps at $169.99/month.
- The Consolidated/Blue Hill project will deploy fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) in the Blue Hill Peninsula, serving the towns of Penobscot, Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Sedgwick, Brookline, and a small portion of Stonington. The project will provide symmetrical broadband service from 50 Mbps at $35/month to 1 Gbps at $70/month.
- The Consolidated/Rangeley Lakes project will deploy FTTP in the Rangeley Lakes area of Maine’s Appalachian Mountains, serving the towns of Rangeley, Rangeley Plantation, Dallas Plantation, and Sandy River Plantation. The project will provide symmetrical broadband service from 50 Mbps at $35/month to 1 Gbps at $70/month.
- The Consolidated/Farmington project will deploy FTTP in the Farmington area, serving the towns of Farmington, Temple, New Sharon, Industry, Wilton, Mercer, New Vineyard, Starks, and Strong. The project will provide symmetrical broadband service from 50 Mbps at $35/month to 1 Gbps at $70/month.
All of these projects are designed to bring gigabit-capable, fiber-based broadband service to 11,746 unserved households across Maine. Each project will provide service to 100% of unserved addresses in six of the designated service areas, and the Consolidated/Farmington project will provide service to 98.5% of unserved addresses in its service area.
Support for the Grant
US Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) joined Reps Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jared Golden (D-ME) in sending a letter to the NTIA advocating for ConnectMaine’s application to the Broadband Infrastructure Program in September of 2021, months before the awardees were finalized. Following the release of the grantees in February 2022, Maine officials spoke in support of the grant as a large step in continuing state efforts to close the digital divide. “This is absolutely amazing news and something we’ve been working towards for several years as a group of towns on the Blue Hill Peninsula,” said Butler Smythe, member of the Blue Hill Broadband Committee and Peninsula Utility for Broadband Committee in a Consolidated press release. “The time and effort put in by all in our Peninsula group and the town broadband committees, mean that thousands of residents will be connected to a future-proof internet service.”
“It’s a huge deal for [Maine] that we were one out of 13 [grantees],” says ConnectMaine Executive Director Peggy Schaffer, who has been at ConnectMaine since 2019. “I think it says so much about the work that has been happening in Maine, between the communities and the providers and the willingness of both to join and be part of this. I think that it speaks well…that we had such a diverse grant. It speaks well for the partnerships that we, as a state, have really worked on building for the last five or six years.” Schaffer stated that the grant is likely to cover closer to 15,000 unserved households in total. She also noted that governments across the country have been preparing in advance for the influx of federal broadband funding. “The bipartisan shift in policy from ‘let’s give money to the FCC’ to ‘let’s give it to the state players’ is a significant shift. Now the states want to make sure this works. And we’re all gearing up for it…We have a state broadband leaders’ informal network. We’re getting ready.”
The State of Mississippi
The Mississippi Public Utilities Staff (MPUS) entered into eligible public-private partnerships with eight different broadband providers to accomplish infrastructure projects for the State of Mississippi. The state received $32,696,322.55 in funding from NTIA of the total cost of $36,329,248.39. Mississippi’s projects will reach rural, unserved homes within Smith, Calhoun, Issaquena, Madison, Covington, Lincoln, Benton, Pontotoc, and Coahoma Counties. The service providers partnering with MPUS are Bay Springs Telephone, Bruce Telephone, C Spire, CableSouth Media 3, Franklin Telephone, MaxxSouth, Uplink, and WeConnect Communications.
Identified Needs of the State of Mississippi’s Project
The State of Mississippi’s grant will support last-mile and middle-mile broadband deployment across the state, consisting of ten unique projects:
- The Bay Springs Smith County Community Broadband project will service Smith County (population 16,009). The area includes 754 unserved households, 2 businesses, and 4 anchor institutions. The FTTH project will construct 126 miles of fiber and offer symmetrical broadband service from 250 Mbps at $54.95/month to 1 Gbps at $79.95/month.
- The Bruce Telephone Company NTIA Fiber Expansion FTTH project will reach rural Calhoun County with 154 miles of buried fiber, serving 1,199 unserved households. Bruce Telephone will offer symmetrical broadband service of 250 Mbps for $49.99/month up to 1 Gbps for $79.95/month.
- The C Spire Issaquena (Maversville) FTTH project will cover Issaquena County with 10 miles of fiber, serving 120 households, 10 businesses, and 2 anchor institutions. C Spire will offer symmetrical broadband service at $80.00/month for 1 Gbps. The project will consist of a mix of middle-mile and last-mile connectivity of which engineering work and permitting have already begun.
- The C Spire Madison County (Livingston Road) project will cover Madison County, serving 101 households and 32 businesses. The FTTH project will construct 10.7 miles of fiber. C Spire will offer 1 Gbps symmetrical broadband service at $80.00/month.
- The CableSouth Media 3 Collins project will cover Covington County, serving 1,955 households, 201 businesses, and 6 anchor institutions. The project will upgrade 19 mainline miles of a fiber/coaxial network to Docsis 3.1 technology. CableSouth will offer symmetrical broadband service from 200 Mbps at $50/month to 1 Gbps at $89.99/month.
- The Franklin Telephone FTTH project will cover Lincoln County, serving 604 households, 4 businesses, and 2 anchor institutions. The project will construct 68 miles of buried fiber. Franklin Telephone will offer symmetrical broadband service from 25 Mbps at $40/month to 1 Gbps at $100/month.
- The MaxxSouth Broadband/New Albany Light, Gas and Water Rural Broadband project will cover Benton County, serving 632 households. The FTTH project will construct 91 miles of new fiber. MaxxSouth will offer symmetrical broadband service from 25 Mbps at $29.99/month to 1 Gbps at $74.99/month.
- The MaxxSouth Broadband/Pontotoc EPA Rural Broadband project will cover Pontotoc County, serving 664 households, 6 businesses, and 2 anchor institutions. The FTTH project will construct 91 miles of new fiber. MaxxSouth will offer symmetrical broadband service from 25 Mbps at $29.99/month to 1 Gbps at $74.99/month.
- The Uplink Broadband Deployment to Coahoma project will cover rural Coahoma County. The total county population is 22,124. The project will serve 6,295 households, providing 1,837 households with fiber and 4,458 with wireless. It will also serve 10 anchor institutions. The project will include 90.87 miles of fiber construction. Uplink will offer symmetrical broadband service from 100 Mbps at $55/month to 1 Gbps at $100/month.
- The We Connect Communications, Inc. Hopewell NTIA Fiber Expansion project will cover rural Calhoun County, serving 163 households, 1 business, and an unspecified number of anchor institutions. The FTTH project will construct 27 miles of buried fiber. We Connect will provide symmetrical broadband service from 250 Mbps at $49.95/month to 1 Gbps at $79.95/month.
Cumulatively, the 10 projects in this application intend to construct 602 new fiber miles and directly connect 12,487 unserved households with up to 1 Gbps symmetrical broadband service. This project will also connect 256 businesses and approximately 26 community anchor institutions.
Support for the Grant
Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves recently joined Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) in Mississippi to highlight the state’s Broadband Infrastructure Program grant. “This award, along with additional investments from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help to close the digital divide in Mississippi and across the country,” said Deputy Secretary Don Graves. “The Broadband Infrastructure Program is helping to connect thousands of homes, businesses, schools, and universities across Mississippi to high quality internet,” said Sen Wicker. “I look forward to working with the Department of Commerce and agencies in Mississippi to expand broadband access to every unserved household in our state.” Mississippi Public Utilities Staff Executive Director Sally Burchfield Doty said, as reported by The Center Square, “Providing more Mississippians with broadband access is integral to the future of our state. Students, small businesses, and increasingly health-care providers need broadband connectivity to participate in today’s digital world. The Public Utilities Staff, working with Senator Wicker, Senator Hyde-Smith, and Governor Reeves, partnered with eight local providers to expand broadband access to thousands of Mississippians.”
The Missouri Department of Economic Development
Missouri’s Department of Economic Development was awarded $42,241,491.12 from NTIA to support a total project cost of $67,346,994.47. The projects have been separated by the internet service providers that are servicing specific counties: Boycom Cablevision (Butler County), Chariton Valley Communications (Shelby, Marion, and Monroe Counties), Columbus Telephone Company (Jasper County), Gascosage Electric Cooperative (Pulaski County), Gateway Infrastructure (St. Charles & Lincoln Counties), Green Hills Telephone Company (Livingston County), Le-Ru Telephone Company (McDonald County), Socket Telecom (Boone County), and Spectrum Mid-America (St. Charles and St. Louis Counties).
Identified Needs of the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Project
The Missouri Department of Economic Development project is a last-mile, fiber deployment across 12 counties:
The Boycom Cablevision project will provide a new build to Stringtown in rural western Butler County. The project will serve 230 households, 18 businesses, and 2 community anchor institutions. The finished new build will host FTTH at symmetrical speeds from 50 Mbps-1Gbps ($69.95/month) to 1 Gbps-2 Gbps ($159.95/month).
The Chariton Valley Communications-Clarence Zone 1 & 2 will deploy symmetrical fiber broadband to each zone in Clarence at speeds from 100 Mbps ($47/month) to 1 Gbps ($97/month). The project will serve 73 households and 2 businesses.
The Chariton Valley Communications-Hannibal Zones 1 & 3 project will deploy fiber broadband to each zone in Hannibal, providing symmetrical broadband service from 100 Mbps ($47/month) to 1 Gbps ($97/month). The project will serve 68 households and 4 businesses.
The Chariton Valley Communications-Monroe City project will deploy fiber broadband to Monroe City, in Monroe County, providing symmetrical broadband service from 100 Mbps ($47/month) to 1 Gbps ($97/month). The project will serve 45 households and 5 businesses.
The Chariton Valley Communications-Palmyra Zones 1-4 project will deploy fiber broadband to Palmyra, located in Marion County, providing symmetrical broadband service from 100 Mbps ($47/month) to 1 Gbps ($97/month). The projects will serve 176 households, 10 businesses, and 2 community anchor institutions across the four zones.
The Columbus Telephone Company project will construct forty-one mainline miles of fiber to provide symmetrical 50 ($50/month) to 1 Gbps ($84/month) broadband service with 4 milliseconds (ms) latency in the city of Carl Junction. The project will serve 3,105 households, 99 businesses, and 16 community anchor institutions.
The Gascosage Electric Company project will complete a FTTH expansion south of Dixon to bring fiber internet with 6 ms of latency to the area. Gascosage will provide symmetrical service of 100 Mbps ($59.99/month) to 1 Gbps ($99.99/month). The project will serve 719 households and 35 businesses.
The Gateway Infrastructure project will deploy FTTH broadband service to Argentville, Josephville, Redemption Ranch, St. Paul, and Sunrise Park to provide symmetrical service of 250 Mbps ($65/month) to 1 Gbps ($90/month) with less than 10 ms latency. The project will serve approximately 4,731 households and 121 businesses.
The Green Hills Telephone Company project will deploy FTTH in the areas east of Chillicothe to provide broadband service of 50/25 Mbps ($60/month) to 1 Gbps/200 Mbps ($150/month). The project will serve 295 households, 6 businesses, and 1 community anchor institution.
The Le-Ru Telephone Company project will deliver FTTP over buried fiber facilities to offer symmetrical speeds of 50 Mbps ($50/month) to 1 Gbps ($84/month) in the southeastern area of McDonald County. The project will serve 215 households and 6 businesses.
The Socket Telecom project will deploy a FTTP network in the northwest Boone County area to provide symmetrical broadband service of 1 Gbps ($60/month) with low latency of less than 100 ms. The project will serve 2,941 households, 6 businesses, and 10 community anchor institutions.
The Spectrum Mid-America project will deploy 57.82 miles of FTTP in three locations in St. Charles County and St. Louis County to provide broadband speeds of 30/4 Mbps ($17.99/month) to 1 Gbps/500 Mbps ($134.99/month). The project will serve 496 households.
Missouri requested an extension of the one-year award period to a period not to exceed 2.5 years from the initial receipt of grant funds.
The Missouri projects will provide broadband to a total of 13,094 unserved households, 312 businesses, and 31 community anchor institutions with up to 1 Gbps symmetrical service.
Support for the Grant
“This funding awarded through the NTIA’s grant program is a tremendous opportunity for broadband expansion statewide,” said Missouri Director of Broadband Development BJ Tanksley. “A quality internet connection has never been more important, whether for work, health care, or education. I look forward to seeing these funds put to work alongside other initiatives aimed at ensuring every Missourian has access to high-speed internet.” Department of Economic Development Acting Director Maggie Kost stated, “This grant award will have a significant, positive impact for Missourians in need of high-speed internet. Expanding broadband access is a key economic priority, and these funds will go a long way in supporting our mission of helping all Missourians prosper.”
The North Carolina Global TransPark Authority
The North Carolina Global TransPark is a multi-modal industrial/airport site in Eastern North Carolina. The North Carolina Global TransPark Authority (NCGTP) was awarded $29,985,800 to support a project covering rural areas of Lenoir County with provider InfinityLink Communications. The awarded grant covers the entire cost of the project. NCGTP has entered into a public-private partnership with AER Cable Construction, BVJ Company, InfinityLink, and the National Cable Television Cooperative to accomplish the project.
Identified Needs of the North Carolina Global TransPark Authority’s Project
NCGTP and InfinityLink Communications will build an 898-mile FTTH network to last-mile homes. The installation will be 60% aerial and 40% underground. The proposed project will provide 100% of the households within the service area with fiber internet service, offering qualifying residents free service under InfinityLink’s participation in the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program.
The project plans to make available symmetrical broadband speeds of up to 10 Gbps to subscribers within the Lenoir County area. Initial speeds will be offered from 50 Mbps for $40.00/month to 10 Gbps for $400.00/month. NCGTP requested a two-year extension of the award period, estimating that the project will be completed in 3 years.
This project will provide 898 miles of fiber to 15,256 residential, 160 community anchor points, 2,191 agricultural, 1,214 commercial, and 186 government points that currently do not have access to fiber internet.
Support for the Grant
Following the grantees’ announcement, Sen Thom Tillis (R-NC) said, “Broadband expansion in Lenoir County will deliver much-needed internet access to unserved households, and I look forward to its implementation soon.” Kinston, North Carolina Mayor Don Hardy was equally enthusiastic and was glad expanded broadband will be available soon in Lenoir County, the Kinston Free Press reports. “It will help improve the quality of life for people in rural areas,” Hardy said. “It’s a big deal for our students and even family members who will now be able to work from home and it will also attract people to our community because it’s the number one thing that people look for when they get ready to move.” State lawmakers also expressed frustration for the timeline of infrastructure builds according to the Kinston Free Press. State Senator Jim Perry (R-NC) said, “Anytime there is increased internet accessibility for an area, you’ve got to be happy about that part. One thing to keep in mind that gets lost in translation sometimes is that it takes time to put that stuff in place. And while it’s good to see progress, some folks think that it means that in 30 days or 60 days we’re going to have increased capabilities, and it’s more like three to five years.”
The Washington State Department of Commerce
The Washington State Department of Commerce was awarded $30,000,000.00 for its “Connecting Rural Counties: Washington State Broadband Office Partnership Broadband Initiative,” costing $37,057,483.00 in total. The Initiative is a last-mile fiber and last-mile wireless project that aims to overcome the barriers to broadband access and connectivity in five rural counties of Washington: Ferry, Jefferson, Kittitas, Okanogan, and Stevens counties. The Washington State Broadband Office (WSBO) has entered an eligible covered partnership with City of Ellensburg, Declaration Networks (DNG), Hood Canal Communications (HCC), Jefferson Public Utility District (PUD), and Ziply Fiber to accomplish the project.
Identified Needs of the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Project
This project has three prongs: last-mile FTTH that will serve 100% of the unserved households in the service areas, middle-mile infrastructure that will connect rural houses to local ISPs, and radio arrays for wireless broadband connectivity to homes and farms. The broadband service providers will deploy fiber broadband to all five service areas with qualifying internet service. All FTTH projects will provide speeds of 1 Gbps symmetrical with latency at or under 80 ms. The City of Ellensburg will build wireless broadband radio sites at two water wells. Five miles of fiber will be laid from the wells to connect to the city’s existing fiber network. DNG will deploy an all-fiber optic network along Highway 25 in Stevens County. HCC seeks to close the digital equity gap by building a complete FTTH network along the Highway 101 corridor from Triton Cove State Park to Brinnon in Jefferson County. Jefferson PUD is to build out a fiber network to the communities of Quilcene, Discovery Bay, and Gardiner. Ziply Fiber currently serves its project areas in Ferry and Okanogan counties, which will facilitate the rapid deployment of fiber infrastructure.
Central Connect (Ellensburg’s ISP) will provide symmetrical broadband service from 100 Mbps at $65/month to 1 Gbps at $120/month. DNG will provide symmetrical service from 50 Mbps at $75/month to 1 Gbps at $249/month. HCC will provide service from 25/3 Mbps at $48.95/month to 1 Gbps symmetrical service at $83.95/month. Jefferson PUD will offer symmetrical service from 100 Mbps at $65/month to 1 Gbps at $90/month, and Ziply will offer symmetrical broadband service from 100 Mbps at $40/month to 1 Gbps at $60/month.
Overall, this infrastructure project will bring broadband service to 7,196 households, 210 businesses, 50 community anchor institutions across five rural counties.
The Government of Guam Department of Administration
The Government of Guam’s Department of Administration received $12,770,692, covering almost all the costs of its $12,911,686 “Guam Broadband Infrastructure Program.” This project is a middle-mile and last-mile broadband deployment in the southern half of the territory of Guam. The government of Guam has entered into an eligible covered partnership with PTI Pacifica (IT&E) and TeleGuam Holdings (Guam Telephone Company or GTA) to accomplish the project.
Identified Needs of the Government of Guam Department of Administration’s Project
This project consists of two parts:
- The Guam Southern Ring Buried Fiber Optic Cable and 5G Project, led by IT&E, intends to construct 117 km (approximately 72.7 miles) of 144 buried fiber and 26 5G cell sites along the major routes in Southern Guam in a ring architecture to provide survivable broadband infrastructure and 5G broadband internet service to directly connect 186 currently unserved and underserved subscribers with minimum speeds of 25/5 Mbps at $80/month and maximum speeds of 100/6 Mbps at $175/month. Additionally, these two interconnect rings will provide the population of over 39,000 residents and 10,000 households with survivable middle-mile infrastructure.
- The Broadband Infrastructure Program to Provide Low Latency to Guam Users, led by GTA, will acquire capacity to connect to Guam’s closest transit hub located in the Equinix DataCenter Ty2 in Tokyo and then connect to content providers. This project will deliver low latency service of approximately 40 ms to the entire territory of Guam, including all businesses, federal government sectors, and residents. In addition, all current GTA customers will have access to the lower latency. GTA currently offers retail broadband service from 25/3 Mbps at $40/month to 100/10 Mbps at $100/month.
The Guam Southern Ring Buried Fiber Optic Cable and 5G Project aims to connect over 39,000 residents and 10,000 households. The Broadband Infrastructure Program to Provide Low Latency to Guam Users will benefit at least 63,000 broadband subscribers on the island who currently encounter latency of 112 to 158 ms for all traffic that routes off the remote island.
Support for the Grant
“As we remain steadfast in our commitment to better serve all Americans through robust infrastructure investments in communities across the country, we are humbled that our latest efforts in Congress have provided yet another avenue to address the longstanding resource gaps experienced by citizens in the Territories,” said Representative Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam). “The results we have delivered as part of the NTIA Broadband Infrastructure Program will not simply improve the quality of life for the people of our island — it meaningfully advances our shared mission to realize greater parity for the Territories in every aspect of American life.” Assistant Secretary Alan Davidson stated, as reported by the Pacific Daily News, “The infrastructure created by the Broadband Infrastructure Program will serve over 10,000 households, ensuring more Guam residents have access to the broadband they need and deserve.”
Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)
ICYMI from Benton
Apr 13—The Tech That Comes Next (New America)
Apr 21—Open Meeting (FCC)
Apr 26—Consumer Advisory Committee (FCC)
Apr 27—Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Broadband Programs Pre-NOFO Technical Assistance Webinar #4 (NTIA)