Windstream wants 1,000 new workers to fuel fiber build

Windstream's Kinetic broadband division revealed a plan to boost its employee roster by almost 20%, hiring nearly 1,000 new workers in construction and construction management to fuel a previously announced five-year, $2 billion fiber build project.

The staff will be part of a new engineering and fiber construction organization within the Kinetic unit. The company said it will honor existing construction agreements with contractors, which run through the end of this year. Hiring will begin in Q4 to ensure its internal construction team is ready to take over projects in 2022.

Kinetic President Jeff Small told Fierce the move is all about ensuring execution of its expansion plan, noting increased competition for telecom labor.

“There are going to be a lot of people competing, if you will, for construction workforces,” he explained, pointing out “the wireless guys are building out a 5G network, and that’s going to require a lot of fiber.” He added between the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and other broadband-focused legislation, “there’s a lot of money coming into the system to build, and so we believe that we can have the greatest degree of certainty for our ability to execute our programs by hiring our workforce.”

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Small said the move represents a “change in strategy” since Windstream doesn’t really have an internal construction workforce today. While 1,000 new hires might not sound like a lot, he noted it is a significant figure for Windstream's Kinetic unit, which currently has around 5,000 employees. Windstream has approximately 11,000 employees overall. 

In tandem with its staffing boost, Small said Windstream will also be “acquiring a lot of equipment to support these builds.” That includes everything from pool vehicles and bucket trucks for aerial lines to boring machines and the kinds of construction gear required to dig ditches, place poles and bury lines. The company named Iowa-based Vermeer Corporation as its supplier.

Late last year, Windstream won $523 million in Phase I of the FCC’s RDOF auction to build out fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) to nearly 200,000 locations across its 18 state footprint. But that undertaking comprises only part of the company’s massive five-year project, which ultimately aims to expand gigabit capabilities to a total of 2 million locations. It is striving to hit the 1 million mark by the end of 2021.

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Asked what will happen to its expanded workforce once the five-year expansion project is complete, Small said, “We believe that there’s probably going to be a lot more work to do than is even planned for right now.” Its current build plan could “go up, both in terms of the five years that we have right now” with the release of new funding and as new opportunities arise to push its expansion further.

He also noted Windstream will need to retain a robust team to maintain its growing network, adding “there are also opportunities for these workers to move into other jobs within Kinetic.”

This story has been updated to clarify Windstream has approximately 11,000 employees overall, while its Kinetic unit has approximately 5,000.