Windstream announced this week that it has begun construction on a broadband stimulus project in Protivin, Iowa— and once again, the company is starting small. The Protivin project will upgrade Windstream’s existing network with about two miles of fiber and electronic equipment, reaching about 30 potential customers with broadband service.

Like other Windstream stimulus projects announced earlier this summer in Georgia and in Mississippi,  the company appears to be focusing on small projects that can be completed quickly. The Protivin project is expected to be finished this month and service is expected to be made available to customers in October.

The Protivin project undoubtedly represents only a small fraction of the Iowa projects for which Windstream won a total of $17.4 million. This is not unlike what Windstream did in Georgia, where it won a total of $16.7 million, but so far has only announced construction on a 12-mile network upgrade that will serve just 280 customers.

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Windstream’s behavior is a bit surprising, considering that the company was the largest single recipient of broadband stimulus grants from the Rural Utilities Service, winning a total of $181.3 million for projects in 13 states. The company also will contribute $60.4 million of its own money toward network construction costs.

Telecompetitor has speculated previously that Windstream might be starting small so that it can work out any potential bugs in its processes. But at this rate, the carrier may have to postpone the commencement of construction on projects in the northern half of the country until 2012, as the ground normally freezes solid in northern areas late in the year, preventing any digging until the spring 2012 thaw.

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