Charter grant tally tops $300M with $110M win in Montana

Charter Communications won big in Montana as the state finalized $309 million in broadband grant awards, walking away with more than a third of the funding dished out. All told, Charter builds accounted for 17 of the 61 projects which received support.

The ConnectMT awards will help cover 61,887 locations, including 38,631 unserved and 21,956 underserved sites.

Charter’s awards include fiber-to-the-premises EPON projects in Cascade, Silver Bow, Jefferson, Missoula, Yellowstone, Lewis & Clark, Flathead, Ravalli and Gallatin Counties. Its winnings totaled $109.59 million, with a $10 million award in Flathead its largest.

While its take home figure was more than a third of the total awarded, it was significantly less than the $126.1 million Charter stood to receive after a preliminary ranking of bids. These rankings, however, changed following a challenge process which played out over the past several months.

Lumen Technologies, which bid through its Qwest Corporation subsidiary, won 11 awards. But the majority of these were for amounts under $1 million, leaving it with total winnings of $4.87 million. Blackfoot Telephone Cooperative, Grizzly Broadband and Visionary Communications were among the other awardees.

Grant landscape

The Montana awards bump Charter’s 2022 grant tally to more than $334 million, with wins spanning Ohio ($51 million), Kentucky ($49.9 million), Indiana ($27 million), Tennessee ($20.4 million) 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). It also won grants covering a total of 20 counties in North Carolina. The award total there is unclear, but amounts to at least $33.2 million for 11 of the counties.

During an investor call this week, Charter said it has received state grant funding for 160,000 passings and has pending applications for 300,000 more. It was not immediately clear if all of the former number were awarded in 2022. However, it would seem that the figure did not include its awards in Montana, as Charter’s event was held on December 13 and Montana’s governor did not sign off on the grants until the 14th.

Here's where several other operators stand in terms of state grant awards.

Fellow cable giant Comcast has won awards totaling at least $127.7 million. These include grants in Delaware ($33.1 million), West Virginia ($22.3 million), Maryland ($17.4 million), Indiana ($13.5 million), Alabama ($11.3 million), Louisiana ($10.1 million), Ohio ($9.4 million), Pennsylvania ($4.5 million), Georgia ($3.8 million) and Tennessee ($2.3 million). Comcast also won grant funding through the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program, which dished out $38.6 million in support in November. However, it was not immediately clear how much the operator received.

Altice USA’s CEO said during the operator’s Q3 2022 earnings call in November it has won grant awards totaling $44 million thus far this year to help it cover 35,000 passings. Awards include grants for 9,000 passings in West Virginia and 2,000 passings in North Carolina. It also has wins in Arizona and Louisiana.

Meanwhile, Windstream has won grants across Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas totaling more than $202 million this year.

And finally, AT&T snagged awards this year in Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas this year for projects which will collectively reach  more than 63,000 locations. Awards for these builds came out to at least $33 million – not including AT&T’s contributions. However the figure may be quite a bit higher as it was not immediately clear how much grant funding had been awarded for a $13 million project covering nine counties in Indiana and a $4.4 million project in the city of Boonville there.

This story has been updated to correct Windstream's grant tally.