BBWN Bites: US counties unite on 'broadband task force'
Also in this roundup: USDA ReConnect Program commits over $560 million in second round broadband grants; Verizon, AT&T celebrate broadband subs; Virgin Media, Google bundle up.
- A new "broadband task force" established by the National Association of Counties (NACo) will bring together nearly three dozen county government officials from across the US to study the country's digital divide, "with a particular focus on the challenges facing underserved communities." The task force follows the release of a report from NACo last year showing that nearly two-thirds (65%) of US counties (and 77% of rural counties) experience speeds below the FCC's 25 Mbit/s minimum standard. "Our new task force will examine the intersection of public and private sector efforts to deploy broadband networks and create a blueprint for local governments to help bridge the digital divide," said Task Force Co-Chair J.D. Clark, the county judge in Wise County, Texas, in a press release.
- Tackling the lack of adequate broadband infrastructure in America, the US Department of Agriculture's ReConnect Program, a $1.2 billion federal loan and grant pilot program for broadband development, announced funding for projects in several US states this week, as part of its second round of awards. The latest states include Alaska ($46.5M), Alabama ($37M), Missouri ($91.5M), Iowa ($24M), Michigan ($10.1M) and more. According to the USDA website, the ReConnect Program has exceeded its $550 million commitment for its second-round awards: "As of now, USDA is investing in 64 projects through the second round of the ReConnect Program. The investments represent $566,808,406 in grant and loan funding for high-speed broadband infrastructure. The funded service areas include a total of 97,633 households," it says.
- Both Verizon and AT&T celebrated broadband gains as part of their third quarter earnings this week. Verizon saw its most additions since 2014, with 144,000 Fios subs. And AT&T added 158,000 broadband customers, with FTTP leading the way. (While it lost nearly 200,000 non-fiber subscribers, it gained 357,000 FTTP subs.) The company said it expects to grow its fiber base by 25% this year. (Read more about Verizon and AT&T's earnings from Jeff Baumgartner on Light Reading: Pent-up demand drives Fios Internet sub growth to five-year high and AT&T sheds 627K pay-TV subs as HBO Max activations double in Q3.)
- Virgin Media in the UK announced a "smart home" partnership with Google this week to offer customers the opportunity to welcome IoT smart devices into their lives. In a press release, Virgin Media said the offer is for "exciting bundles that include Google's Nest Hub, cameras and doorbell products – all powered by Virgin Media's ultrafast broadband." These "exciting bundles" will at first be available for Virgin Media customers in Cardiff, Manchester and Southampton; and monthly packages range from £10 (US$13) to £56 ($73). Citing unsourced statistics that 73% of people are concerned about security, with 68% using at least one smart home security product and 29% who want one, the company said it has released its "exciting bundles" to cater to "growing demand."
— Nicole Ferraro, contributing editor, Light Reading
Here's where you can find episode links for 'The Divide,' Light Reading's podcast series featuring conversations with broadband providers and policymakers working to close the digital divide.
As we have for the past two years, Light Reading will present our Cable Next-Gen Europe conference as a free digital symposium on June 21.
Charter has sparked RDOF work in all 24 states where it won bids. The cable op booked about $19 million in RDOF revenues in Q1, and expects to have about $9 million per month come in over the next ten years.
As we have for the past two years, Light Reading will stage the Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference as a free digital event over two half-days in mid-March.
Launch of 2-Gig and 5-Gig FTTP tiers in 70-plus markets puts more pressure on cable ops to enhance their existing DOCSIS 3.1 network or accelerate their upgrade activity centered on the new DOCSIS 4.0 specs.