“We’re the largest rural provider today,” said Charter CEO Chris Winfrey on the company’s first quarter earnings call today.
It’s a surprising revelation, considering that Charter only recently became serious about rural buildouts. The company realized a few years ago that expanding to rural areas was a good way to get new customers and that high take rates could be achieved in rural markets hungry for higher bandwidth.
The company also was a big winner in the RDOF rural broadband funding program, in which it won over $1 billion to cover some of the costs of rural buildouts. And since then, it has won large amounts of funding in state-level broadband funding programs.
“We’re the most experienced rural builder in the entire country,” Winfrey boasted. “When we tell a local, state or federal government that we’re going to build or we’re going to build within a certain time frame, we have the most credibility because we’re the largest rural provider today, we’re the largest rural builder and we’ve won awards for success and the quality of what we do.”
As a video and mobile service provider, the company also picks up other business when it builds out broadband.
“We have the ability not just to bring broadband into these rural communities, but we have the ability to save customers significant amounts of money on their already high mobile bill and we bring video into these places, so it’s not just a single-play initiative,” Winfrey said. “It’s a whole suite of connection services that saves customers money and so… our success rate is good.”
Largest Rural Provider
Despite its large base of hybrid-fiber coax infrastructure in traditional urban and suburban markets, Charter generally deploys fiber broadband for rural builds.
According to Jessica Fisher, Charter chief financial officer, Charter has honed its approach to subsidized rural buildouts to the point where it has a high level of confidence in the timeframes and cost structure to which it commits.
It’s a “very disciplined process,” said Fisher on today’s earnings call.
“We’re very confident in our ability to price and execute passings cost effectively,” she continued. “What we win, we win at good returns and we’ll executive it and bring those returns back into the company.”