Winning funding in the $42.5 billion broadband equity, access and deployment (BEAD) rural broadband program will be “trickier than we were hoping for,” said Charter CEO Chris Winfrey at an investor conference today.
“We didn’t get all the guidelines and NTIA instructions that we were hoping for,” Winfrey said.
Instead, some of the guidelines that have been established are “unhelpful to private capital.” Although he didn’t elaborate, this may have been a reference to rules that favor public/private partnerships.
Overall, though, Winfrey said that Charter is “still optimistic around BEAD.”
Cable companies traditionally didn’t pursue government funding for rural buildouts, but that mindset has changed in recent years, in large part because of Charter’s success in winning about a billion dollars in rural broadband funding through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program.
Since then, Charter has been chalking up a large number of wins in state-level rural broadband funding programs. Unlike in some past investor briefings, Winfrey did not provide an update on funding won today. But as of June, the company had won $700 million since its RDOF win, and it has had some big wins since June.
Earlier this week, the company was awarded more than $100 million by the state of Kentucky.
Charter Rural Strategy
According to Winfrey, Charter is ahead on its rural buildout plan and is seeing take rates hitting targets sooner than expected.
“The reality is that we have very compelling products, and they haven’t existed inside these markets,” said Winfrey.
Rural customers, he said, can “save tons of money” on broadband, mobile and video services.
He added, though, that rural buildouts could be completed more quickly if the company were to get “some help on pole permits and make-ready.”
Winfrey made his comments at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology Conference. A replay is available online.