Comcast, Verizon snag $44.9M to help deliver universal broadband in Delaware

Comcast won a grant of more than $30 million to help expand high-speed internet service to underserved homes and businesses in Delaware, as part of a state initiative to deliver universal broadband access. Verizon and Mediacom each also scored hefty awards.

All told, the state awarded $56 million in Broadband Infrastructure Grants. The money was distributed as part of a $110 million program announced in September aimed at closing existing broadband gaps in the state. Comcast came away with $33.1 million, while Verizon snagged $11.8 million and Mediacom won $11.1 million. Using the money, the trio will extend their wireline infrastructure in Delaware over the next 36 months to cover more than 11,000 unserved locations. The grants will cover up to 75% of construction costs, with the operators contributing the remaining 25%.

Tony Lewis, Verizon’s VP of public policy, said in a statement the grant will help it “deploy our best in class all-fiber network technology to deliver our flagship Fios Home Internet service — with speeds up to 940 Mbps and no data caps — to roughly 3,000 additional unserved locations” in Delaware.

In a strategic broadband plan released in May 2021, the state previously identified 11,600 locations in contiguous areas which were unserved with broadband meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s minimum speed standard of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. The report noted there were a few hundred more unserved addresses sprinkled within mostly served areas, with these primarily consisting of locations where “the potential return on investment is not high enough to merit the cost to pick up those customers.”

It concluded that encouraging incumbent providers to edge out their networks would be the most efficient way to connect a majority of unserved locations, finding 87% could be reached with a half-mile extension of existing infrastructure.

State officials followed up the report with the announcement of a universal broadband initiative in September. While they didn’t provide a firm timeline to achieve this goal, Governor John Carney said Delaware was aiming to become the first state to provide universal broadband access to residents. The money allocated for the initiative came from the state’s allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Several other states are also putting their ARPA funding to work. Georgia recently awarded $408 million In ARPA-funded grants, including $171 million to Windstream and $12.2 million to Charter Communications. Arkansas’ Rural Connect (ARC) Broadband Program also distributed several million dollars in its latest ARPA-fueled funding round, including $44 million to Ritter Communications and $5.2 million to Windstream. And in Indiana, Vanderburgh County officials tapped AT&T for a $39.6 million broadband expansion project partly funded by ARPA.