Charter bags nearly $50M in grants for Kentucky broadband expansion

Charter Communications has scored nearly $50 million in grant awards to provide broadband in several Kentucky counties, as part of the state’s wider $203 million initiative for broadband expansion.

The $203 million, made available through Kentucky’s Better Internet program, is “the single largest provision of funding for high-speed internet” in the state’s history, said Governor Andy Beshear in a statement Monday.

In addition to the Better Internet program’s $89.1 million contribution, the investment includes matching contributions by grant recipients.

Charter was the key winner in the funding round, having received 18 grant awards totaling $49.9 million. The operator will also contribute matching funds as required by the Better Internet program – making Charter’s overall project investment worth $118.8 million.

With these funds, Charter will provide high-speed internet to over 18,000 unserved homes and businesses in 13 Kentucky counties.

Jerry Avery, area vice president of Charter, said in a statement, “We look forward to this opportunity to extend our network to reach an additional nearly 20,000 unserved families and small businesses across 13 counties, in seven of which broadband availability will be further expanded through Charter’s ongoing rural deployment initiative.”

Charter as of late has doubled down on its broadband expansion, with the operator expecting a churn of up to 70,000 broadband subscribers, as they transition off the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

Charter recently emerged a winner in a Georgia American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding round in February, snagging nearly $12.2 million with its Spectrum brand. The operator is also plotting broadband expansion in Tennessee. Charter submitted in April three grant proposals seeking over $35 million from Tennessee’s emergency broadband fund.

Grant awards came from from Kentucky’s Broadband Deployment Fund, which was signed into law April 2021. The fund allocated $300 million through ARPA.

The latest awards process was managed by Kentucky’s Finance and Administration Cabinet, which issued a request for proposals last August. The cabinet spent six months evaluating the nearly 100 proposals received in response, and then dispersed 46 grant awards among 12 ISPs. Other winners included Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative ($13.8 million), Frankfort Plant Board ($8 million), Gibson Connect ($4.7 million), West Kentucky Rural Telephone Co-op Corporation ($3.4 million) and Duo County Telephone Cooperative ($3.4 million), among others. 

Frankfort Plant Board received the second highest number of grants – 11 grants totaling $8.05 million. The utility aims to expand broadband to nearly 2,000 unserved locations in Kentucky’s Franklin County.

“These grants will lower the cost of construction so that our most rural areas will have access to this necessity of high-speed internet,” said State Budget Director John Hicks in a statement.

Hicks also announced Kentucky is setting up its first Office of Broadband Deployment, in an effort to boost universal broadband service.