Comcast does public-private broadband projects across footprint

  • Comcast partnered with a Virginia county to deploy broadband to unserved locations

  • The project received $3.4 million in ARPA funds

  • The company says it's involved in public-private partnerships across its footprint

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen today visited a recently completed Comcast rural broadband project in Stafford County, Virginia, highlighting that this is a public-private project between Comcast and the county. The giant cable company is involved in public-private partnerships across its national footprint, according to a company spokesperson. 
In Stafford County, Comcast deployed its Xfinity network combining fiber and coax to connect more than 680 previously unserved residents and businesses.

Stafford County put out a request for proposal in 2021, and Comcast was one of several providers who bid on the project.

Once Comcast won the project in September 2022, it worked with the County to enter the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) competition, which is supported by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Ultimately, the project was awarded $3.4 million from VATI.

Comcast declined to say how much the project cost in total and how much, if any, Comcast spent for the project.

Broderick Johnson, EVP of Public Policy and Digital Equity for Comcast, stated, “The completion of this project is a great milestone in our work to connect Americans everywhere to broadband.”

Public-private partnerships

For years cable operators such as Comcast, Charter and Cox have fought hard against municipal broadband projects, always crying that it’s wrong for taxpayer dollars to compete against their private investments.

But now, the competitive landscape is shifting. There’s a lot of taxpayer money available through government programs such as ARPA and most significantly through the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

Cable incumbents are competing against fiber providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Frontier, and they’ll all be competing against upstart fiber and fixed wireless providers to win public-private contracts.

This topic will be discussed this week at WIA’s Connect(X) conference in Atlanta.

Sachin Gupta, director of business development for the Central Rural Electric Cooperative, who’ll be on this week’s panel, says that public-private partnerships typically come about in one of two ways. Either a city puts out an RFP, and companies submit proposals, or, more organically, city leaders talk to a service provider near their area, and they collaborate on a broadband plan.

Thomas Tyler, deputy director for Louisiana’s Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, who’ll also be on the panel this week, said most cities aren’t that interested in municipal broadband. “They want a good reputable provider to come in and do reputable internet.”

To that point, Comcast says, “When you partner with us, you’re getting one of the largest, most experienced teams of broadband network construction, installation, maintenance, and operations professionals. We have more than 15,000 employees in these roles, which gives us the flexibility to bring in additional workforce if necessary to ensure our work with you gets done on time.

Comcast also has long-term relationships with large network construction contractors and it has longstanding supplier relationships.