Charter, Comcast lead race for state broadband grants – for now

Cable companies Charter Communications and Comcast have each raked in at least $100 million in state broadband grants in 2022, leading the pack of operators scrambling to secure government funding for expansion efforts. However, their standing could very well change with subsequent waves of funding.

Public announcements show Charter has won at least $170.8 million so far this year, including major awards in Ohio ($51 million), Kentucky ($49.9 million) and Indiana ($27 million). It has also scored grants in Georgia ($12.2 million), Maryland ($8.5 million), Louisiana ($7.88 million), Alabama ($7.26 million), Wisconsin ($5.9 million) and Pennsylvania ($1.2 million).

The operator also won funding in North Carolina, but the state did not release the funding totals for each award. Additionally, Charter received a preliminary grant award of $126.1 million in Montana, though that total has yet to be finalized.

Comcast is hustling along right behind it, with a total of at least $121.6 million in broadband grant awards so far in 2022. These include $33.1 million in Delaware, $22.3 million in West Virginia, $17.4 million in Maryland and $13.5 million in Indiana. It also scored $11.3 million in Alabama, $10.1 million in Louisiana, $9.4 million in Ohio and $4.5 million in Pennsylvania.

Analysts have previously argued that state-fueled broadband expansions could help cable operators boost flagging subscriber growth.

Elsewhere, Altice USA has won a total of $28.1 million across Louisiana, Arizona and West Virginia, while AT&T has bagged at least $22.57 million in Louisiana and Indiana so far this year. Verizon got $11.8 million in Delaware. Windstream, meanwhile, picked up grants wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Arkansas and Frontier Communications scored awards in Wisconsin and Ohio. Shentel was a big winner in West Virginia and Cox Communications snagged some funding in Louisiana.

Fierce’s compilation of broadband awards in 2022 is incomplete, but offers a glimpse at how the grant landscape currently stands. However, the lay of the land could soon shift given multiple states are planning additional major awards.

Earlier this month, New Mexico launched a new Connect New Mexico Pilot Program which will offer $123 million in grants for broadband expansion. The window for the first wave of funding will close in September 2023, with applications reviewed and grants awarded on a rolling basis. The maximum grant award will be $10 million per application.

Georgia also just announced it will make an additional $240 million available for broadband projects through its Capital Projects Fund Grant Program. Applications will be due by October 7, with preliminary awards made later this fall.

Meanwhile, Virginia is planning a new round of Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) grants totaling $49.7 million for the state’s fiscal year 2023. Awards for a $722 million funding round were announced in December 2021 and included $22.5 million for Charter, $3.39 million for Comcast and $36.5 million for Shentel.

New York State is planning to dish out over $1 billion through its new ConnectAll program.

Additionally, $42.5 billion will soon be flowing from the Department of Commerce to the states for distribution via the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, with the federal government having expressed a clear preference for fiber projects.