Windstream 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. But now that the company has begun to break ground on these projects, it’s starting small.

The first Windstream broadband stimulus project to get underway is a project near Prentiss, Miss. for which the company won $416,322. The project involves upgrading Windstream’s existing network with a little more than seven miles of fiber and installing electronic equipment, the company said. According to the announcement of the Mississippi ground breaking issued today, the project will provide broadband service at speeds of at least 6 Mb/s.

Although the announcement does not specify what type of last mile technology the company is using, Windstream’s stimulus applications included many ADSL2+ projects, and that is likely the technology that will be used in the Mississippi upgrade.

“Windstream had already built out our broadband network to every area that we could serve in a cost-effective way, and now for the first time we will be able to reach customers in some of the most rural parts of our community,” said Terry Mathis, local manager for Windstream in today’s announcement.

Although the RUS made many of its awards as a combination of a loan and a grant, most—if not all—of Windstream’s awards were grant-only. Windstream will, however, contribute 25% of the total construction costs for its stimulus-funded projects. Because the RUS loan program is designed primarily for small rural carriers, it may not have been an appropriate funding mechanism for a company the size of Windstream.

Windstream probably made a smart choice in starting construction for its stimulus projects with one of the smaller projects, which should give the company the opportunity to work out any bugs before it moves on to its higher-cost and higher-profile projects.

Windstream was just a few weeks behind TDS Telecom– another of the larger stimulus winners–in announcing its first broadband stimulus project ground breaking.

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