Charter said today that it has applied to receive $21 million in funding through the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund – American Rescue Plan (TEBF-ARP) program to cover the majority of the costs for a rural broadband build in Henderson County, Tennessee.
The company has become quite aggressive on rural broadband, which it sees as an opportunity to gain broadband and video subscribers in markets with little or no competition.
The company was one of the biggest winners in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) rural broadband auction. The auction awarded funding to bring broadband to unserved areas to the companies that committed to doing so for the lowest level of support.
The Henderson County project that Charter proposes would make gigabit service available to 4,300 homes and small businesses, with Charter contributing $12.9 million toward the project cost. This would be in addition to the $5 billion Charter has said it will invest in unserved rural communities, including $1.2 billion in RDOF funding.
Although the new funding that Charter has requested would come from the state of Tennessee, the Tennessee program was ultimately funded through the State and Local Fiscal Recovery program established in the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). That act gave each state a pool of money that the state could use for a variety of purposes, including broadband.
Charter Rural Broadband Funding
Today’s press release about Charter’s Tennessee rural broadband funding application does not detail the technology that the company plans to use, but most likely it is fiber broadband. That’s the technology the company has used or plans to use for other rural broadband builds, including for RDOF projects.
While companies that tentatively won large amounts of RDOF funding for other technologies are still waiting to have funding released, Charter and other large winners that plan to use fiber broadband for RDOF builds have been fully authorized to receive funding.
Charter’s RDOF award was notable, not only for its size but also for the relatively small percentage of total project costs that the company requested the fund to cover. Charter has committed to covering 76% of RDOF project costs.
The percentage of funding the company is requesting through the Tennessee program is considerably larger, however. Charter proposes to contribute 39% of project costs, with the program covering the other 61%.
It’s interesting that Charter issued a press release to say that it was applying for the Tennessee rural broadband funding. It’s more common for companies to issue such releases after being awarded funding. But perhaps Charter is hoping to drum up popular support for its application to increase the likelihood that its application will be approved.