The Washington Broadband Office tentatively awarded $121 million through the state’s Broadband Infrastructure Grant/ ARPA Capital program this week.
As a result, local providers – as well as some larger companies — could be building broadband networks soon in rural areas of the state, assuming the U.S. Treasury releases the state’s Capital Projects Fund money. Washington is one of nine states that has not yet had its CPF money released.
Service providers involved in the largest projects tentatively awarded were primarily local companies.
Providers with operations that extend beyond Washington and neighboring states that won funding included Declaration Networks Group, which will be involved in a build slated to receive $12 million; Consolidated Communications, which will be involved in a build slated for $11.4 million, and Astound Broadband, slated for a build that is expected to receive $8 million.
Commercial Providers Must Share Any Wins
Private companies were not allowed to be the sole recipients of funding in the Washington program. Instead, applications had to come from a publicly owned or nonprofit organization such as a public utility district, cooperative or tribe or from partnerships including at least one such entity. Funding awards were generally made to the public or nonprofit entities, with commercial service providers designated as “committed service ISPs.”
As a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Commerce explained in response to an inquiry from Telecompetitor, “the committed ISP will provide internet service to the project area and operate the network, but that does not mean they will necessarily own the infrastructure.”
The spokesperson added that the relationship between the applicant and the ISP can take many forms, such as subrecipients of funding or as contractors.
In a statement shared with Telecompetitor, Floyd Jasinski, Consolidated Communications director of government and regulatory affairs, said “Kittitas County was awarded a state grant to bring broadband to their residents. Consolidated Communications has been working with the county and we are excited about the project and the many benefits this broadband expansion will bring to residents and businesses across the County.”
One aspect of the Washington program that Telecompetitor hasn’t seen in other state programs is that some projects have multiple service providers involved. Toledo Tel and Advanced Stream are both listed as ISPs for a $12 million project. And Inland Cellular and LocalTel are both listed for an $8.9 million project.
As the spokesperson explained, “Different providers can provide service where there are multiple project areas within one award, and the service areas will not overlap (i.e., there are discrete service boundaries).”
Small Local ISPs
The provider involved in projects slated for the largest amount of funding — $12.3 million – is Rock Island Communications. The awards include projects on three islands.
Other local providers poised to win at least some funding are Metthownet, for a $12 million project, and Washington Broadband, for an $11.3 million project.
One major carrier that is involved in a relatively small project (slated to receive $1.8 million) is Ziply.
Winners will be fortunate to receive funding. According to a press release about the Washington broadband awards, demand for grants exceeded available funds by 261%. Fifty different projects requested more than $316 million.
Following is a complete list of the awards tentatively announced this week.