rural gigabit broadband equipment

The state of Delaware has awarded $56 million to go toward the cost of broadband deployments in the state. The funding went to three companies that already operate in the state – Comcast, Verizon and Mediacom.

The state used funding provided to it through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support the program. The ARPA allocated funding to individual states, which the states were allowed to use for a range of purposes, including broadband deployments to areas in need of better broadband.

In establishing rules for its program, Delaware restricted eligibility to companies that already provided broadband in the state. According to a press release, the plan was developed by “a diverse group of stakeholders with representation from the public and private sector across the state.”

The press release doesn’t indicate the rationale for focusing only on incumbent providers, but decision makers may have seen this as a means of ensuring awardees’ ability to complete deployments as required. The decision also may have been viewed as a means of ensuring that funding would benefit current employees of companies operating in the state.

If this requirement were to have been in place in a more rural state, perhaps we would have seen a greater variety of incumbent providers – such as small rural telcos, wireless ISPs or rural electric companies — winning some of the funding. But Delaware is a highly urban state and there likely are few such providers in the state. I can’t recall every writing about one.

Comcast will receive the majority of the funding — $33.1 million. Verizon will receive $11.8 million and Mediacom will receive $11.1 million.

The companies were required to commit to paying for at least 25% of the project from their own coffers and must deploy service at speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream. According to the press release, construction will occur over the next three years.

Verizon plans to use the Delaware broadband funding to deploy fiber broadband, according to a comment from a Verizon executive in the press release.

“This grant will help Verizon deploy our best in class all-fiber network technology to deliver our flagship Fios Home Internet service — with speeds up to 940 Mbps and no data caps — to roughly 3,000 locations,” said Tony Lewis, vice president of public policy for Verizon.

Between the three awardees, broadband is slated to be extended to more than 11,600 locations.

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