AT&T plots fiber to 10K homes as Kansas awards $45M for broadband

AT&T secured a $2.2 million grant from the Kansas Office of Broadband Development which, coupled with matching funds, will help it reach an additional 10,000 locations in the Wichita metro area. But the operator was far from the biggest winner as the state doled out a total of nearly $45 million.

The largest single grant went to Kansas-based fiber provider Nex-Tech, which received a total of $10.8 million to tackle two different broadband projects aimed at connecting unserved areas of Decatur and Saline counties. Butler Rural Electric Cooperative Association was on its heels, bagging a $9.8 million award to invest in unserved and economically disadvantaged parts of Butler, Cowley, Sedgwick and Sumner counties.

GBT Rural snagged nearly $6.8 million to cover more than 365 square miles in Pawnee and Stafford Counties, while Cox Communications was close behind with a nearly $6.4 million grant to reach unserved rural areas in Jackson, Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties to the northwest of Topeka.

Other winners included Mokan Dial ($5.6 million), Iowa Tribe ($1.4 million), Cunningham Communications ($1.2 million) and WANRack ($400,000).

All told, the state dished out $44.5 million from its American Rescue Plan Act Capital Projects Fund allotment for 24 projects designed to reach 18,468 locations across 15 counties. Awardees are set to contribute nearly $42 million in matching funds which will help extend the reach of their projects to ultimately hit a total of more than 24,500 locations.

It almost goes without saying that Kansas grant program was massively oversubscribed. The lucky winners were chosen out of a pool of 141 applications which requested more than $600 million in funding.

AT&T rollout

While the state didn’t specify how many locations each project would tackle, AT&T said in a press release that its award would help it expand to an additional 10,000 locations in Sedgewick County. The county encompasses the Wichita metro area. The passings will add to the more than 275,000 AT&T already has in Kansas.

An AT&T representative told Fierce 99% of the 10,000 locations it is tackling were deemed unserved by the state's broadband office. Asked whether it has plans for additional expansions within the state, the representative said "Kansans will continue to see expanded service and we will make local announcements at the appropriate time."

The operator will be contributing $8.2 million of its own money toward the build, for a total investment of $10.4 million. It said engineering work will begin as soon as a contract with the state is executed, with the project expected to be complete by the end of 2024.

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s new broadband map, AT&T already had a fiber presence in Wichita as of June 30, 2022. Coverage rates were as high as nearly 60% in the city center but generally lower along the outskirts in Springdale, Derby, Haysville and Maize. Its main competition in the area appears to be cable operator Cox Communications, though BroadbandNow indicates fixed wireless service is also available from the likes of T-Mobile and Kwikkom while Viasat and HughesNet offer a satellite option.