Fastwyre scores $70M in USDA grants to expand fiber in Alaska

Fastwyre Broadband is aiming to expand fiber access in Western Alaska, with the help of two new U.S. Department of Agriculture grants totaling nearly $70 million.

The funds came from the USDA’s recent round of ReConnect Round Four awards, in which the agency dished out $714 million to cover 33 buildouts in 19 states.

In Fastwyre’s case, it’s using the money to deliver fiber to around 3,000 people and 75 businesses in several communities across Alaska’s Nome Census Area. Construction is expected to start later this year.

In Alaska, Fastwyre provides service to more than 18,000 consumers and businesses across 23 markets, Chief Strategy Officer Jim Patterson told Fierce. Nome and Seward are the largest markets in the state.

While he declined to share Fastwyre’s total subscriber count, Patterson said Fastwyre is “committed to strategic growth objectives that include opportunities for organic expansion and acquisition initiatives.”

“Alaska is one of nine key areas across the United States in which Fastwyre is launching fiber-optic service to unserved and underserved residents and businesses,” he said. “The company is committed to expansion of its broadband footprint and will continue to extend its coverage areas and enter new markets.”

Fastwyre CEO Chris Eldredge told Fierce last November the company is also building fiber across Louisiana, Missouri and Nebraska – targeting around 40,000 new households passed in those states.

“We have a long track record of partnering with communities in Alaska, and we look forward to further contributing to essential enhancements to the state’s digital communications infrastructure,” Eldredge said in a statement.

Patterson added Fastwyre is “in the process of completing projects associated with previously awarded Community Connect and ReConnect grants” in Nome and Port Lions.

Alaska is a notable target for federal funds. The state scored $1.02 billion from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program and was the “biggest winner” from a per capita basis, according to Fiber Broadband Association President Gary Bolton.

The cost of deploying fiber to Alaska’s rural areas can be expensive. For instance, the Alaska Telephone Company – another ReConnect grant winner – will likely have to pay around $200,000 per passing to run fiber to over 200 locations. Whereas Alaska’s Arctic Slope Telephone could pay roughly $63,000 per passing to cover just under 500 locations.