Consolidated bags $40M for New Hampshire broadband expansion

Consolidated Communications won a $40 million grant from the state of New Hampshire to expand fiber broadband service to 24,757 un- and underserved locations across seven counties there. It beat out bids from Comcast and in-state ISP Hub66 to bag the award.

The grant will help Consolidated connect 6,984 locations in Carroll County, 3,078 locations in Cheshire County, 8,459 locations in Coos County, 1,342 in Merrimack County, 2,501 in Grafton County, 280 in Hillsborough County and 2,113 in Sullivan County. The funding – which comes from New Hampshire’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation – is expected to cover approximately 73% of the $54.9 million project cost, with Consolidated contributing the remainder. That factors out to a $1,616 cost per passing.

On top of contributing private capital to the grant build, Consolidated said it will also invest in running fiber to an additional 32,000 locations. All told, it’s looking to build fiber to 57,000 new locations in New Hampshire – adding a good chunk to its more than 244,000 existing passings in the state.

Construction is set to kick off late this year and be mostly complete by the end of 2024. The operator must offer symmetrical speeds of at least 100 Mbps and provide a low-cost option for income-constrained consumers.

The award to Consolidated builds on an earlier distribution of $50 million in ARPA funds to the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative in October 2022 to extend broadband to more than 23,000 locations.

A representative from the state’s Department of Business and Economic Affairs said during a meeting of New Hampshire’s Executive Council on Wednesday the nearly 50,000 locations covered by the two grant rounds represent a “substantial component of what has been left of the unserved population” there.

Consolidated will receive its grant funding in installments, getting $12 million upon contract approval, $12 million once it reaches 12,000 passings and the remaining $16 million upon completion of all the other passings specified in the contract.

The operator previously set a goal to reach 2 million fiber passings by the end of 2025 and was shooting for 400,000 new locations as an interim goal for 2022. In the first three quarters of the year it added 342,000 passings, meaning it only needed to add 58,000 in Q4 to hit its target. Consolidated has yet to report Q4 2022 earnings and hasn’t yet set a date to do so.