Fiber Broadband

AT&T and the Wisconsin town of Sevastopol have entered into a $7.4 million public-private partnership to expand the carrier’s fiber network to more than 2,000 residential and business locations.

The partners did not reveal how much funding each of them would contribute to the network build. But Dan Woelful, chairman of the town of Sevastopol, told us that the town’s contribution would be comprised of town funds, American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and borrowed funds.

Public-private broadband partnerships have become popular in the wake of the state and local fiscal recovery program established by federal legislators during the COVID pandemic. That program, which was part of ARPA, gave money to states and localities nationwide that they could use for a variety of purposes, including broadband network construction.

For a company like AT&T, the extra funding can help build a business case for fiber deployment in areas where it would be too costly to do so otherwise.

Planning and engineering work on the Sevastopol project are set to begin by the end of next month in the town, which is in peninsular Door County on Lake Michigan. The network will provide symmetrical speeds as fast as 5 Gbps. The project is expected to take two years to complete.

“We believe Wisconsin communities both small and large deserve this kind of fiber connectivity,” Robyn Gruner, the director of external affairs for AT&T Wisconsin, said in a press release, “Working with the town of Sevastopol and their Communications and Technology Committee has shown how strong public-private collaborations can help bring high-speed broadband and all its benefits to communities affected by the digital divide.”

Last June, AT&T said that it had used public-private partnerships to bring fiber to more than 130,000 locations during the preceding year via its investments and an estimated $13 billion in ARPA funding.

AT&T pointed to two states in particular. In Indiana, it had at that point committed to serve more than 38,000 addresses across 14 counties and in South Carolina it was involved in projects that would bring service to more than 9,000 locations.  

Indiana is a particularly busy state for AT&T public-private partnerships. The company has announced projects in various cities and counties, including Lawrence County (more than 2,300 locations), Vanderburgh County (more than 20,000 locations), the city of Boonville (4,000 locations), the city of Martinsville (5,000 locations) and Delaware County (1,250 locations).

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