The commonwealth of Kentucky announced $89.1 million in funding through the state’s Better Internet program to cover some of the costs of bringing high-speed broadband to rural areas of the state. More than half of the funding — $49.9 million — will go to Charter Communications, which was awarded the largest amount of funding in the announcement.
The remainder will be shared by 11 local telcos, electric companies and other small local network operators. Charter was the only national company winning funding in the announcement.
Charter will contribute additional funding of its own toward the $118.8 million project, which will expand access to high-speed internet to 18,353 unserved households and businesses in 13 Kentucky counties.
In total, the Kentucky Better Internet funding announcement targets more than 34,000 locations. Total investment, including matching funds from the network operators, will exceed $203 million, according to a press release.
Charter’s Rural Focus
Charter has taken a strong interest in rural broadband in recent years and was the biggest winner in the 2020 FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, measured by number of locations to be served. In the auction, the FCC tentatively awarded $9.2 billion for rural broadband.
RDOF funding went to the company that committed to deploying broadband for the lowest level of support. Charter’s winning bids exceeded $1 billion for more than 1 million locations, and the company has said that it will also invest an additional $3.8 billion on the builds.
Charter sees the rural opportunity as a great way to gain customers, who often take video as well as internet service from the company. Take rates are expected to be high, as the company hopes to have little or no competition in rural markets.
Charter plans to deploy fiber broadband for its RDOF builds. The announcement about the Charter Kentucky win does not say what technology the company plans to use.
More and more states are establishing rural broadband funding programs, in part because the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the importance of the technology, as well as its absence in some rural areas. Another consideration is that federal legislators have awarded funding to the states that the states can use for broadband and other infrastructure investment.
A spokesperson for Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear confirmed in an email to Telecompetitor that the state is using $300 million that it was awarded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act to bring broadband to unserved and underserved communities in the state.
The full list of companies awarded funding in today’s Better Internet program announcement can be found in today’s press release.