The Federal Communications Commission allocated $60.4 million to Windstream Corp. to help fill the gap in broadband service throughout rural America.
However, the telecommunications company revealed Tuesday it's elected to accept only $653,325 under phase one of the "Connect America Fund" because it's not feasible to build to many locations under the FCC's current rules even with the subsidies.
"The rules cap support for broadband deployment to $775 per unserved location, an amount that is insufficient to make deployment economic in a truly high-cost area," Windstream asserted in a filing with the FCC.
The FCC on Wednesday announced that nearly 400,000 residents and small business owners will gain access to high-speed Internet service within three years thanks to phase one of the Connect America Fund. About $115 million in public funding and tens of millions of dollars in private investment will support the expansion.
But Windstream said unless it's granted a waiver it will only expand broadband to a modest 843 locations.
The Arkansas-based company is proposing a waiver that it says will enable it to use all $60.4 million in funding to extend 1,688 miles of fiber-optic, second-mile infrastructure in areas of 15 states. Should its be waiver be granted, Windstream said it can expand broadband to 16,981 unserved locations where roughly 44,000 Americans reside. Windstream also is offering to provide $12.2 million in matching funds despite no requirement to do so, according to Eric Einhorn, senior vice president of government affairs and strategy for the company, in an emailed statement forwarded by a spokesperson.
"In the absence of government support, it is highly unlikely that areas addressed by Windstream's waiver would attain access to robust broadband services – from Windstream or any other provider – in the foreseeable future," said the company. "Providing government support for deployment of second-mile fiber in these rural areas would be tantamount to laying the foundation for a house that otherwise cannot be built by Windstream or any other entity."
Windstream is requesting a waiver from the FCC's requirement that it deploy broadband to one unserved location for every $775 in incremental support it elects to receive under phase one of the Connect America Fund. It wants to be able to use the subsidies to deploy second-mile fiber to curtail the length of copper loops.