Charter Communications, thanks to an influx of federal funds, plans to fill gaps in digital services in rural areas of the nation, providing service to more than 1 million unserved customer locations. Among those areas of interest is rural Boone County.
The company, whose primary digital product is Spectrum, serves 31 million customers across the U.S., according to Elizabeth James, who works in government affairs for Charter Communications. It also has more than 400 employees in Indiana and more than 300,000 customers across 81 communities in the state.
“Over the past three years, we have built out to 2.5 million homes and businesses, and just about a third of that was rural expansion, so we really have had an emphasis on rural areas recently,” James told the Board of Boone County Commissioners during an Oct. 18 meeting.
Now, the company wants to expand even further into rural America after the Federal Communications Commission awarded the company $59 million to be used in Indiana alone to expand service in the state’s rural areas.
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is an FCC initiative focused on bridging the digital divide by funding the deployment of broadband networks in rural America. Rural locations considered to be unserved are those that do not have internet service with speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps.
“The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will ensure that networks stand the test of time by prioritizing higher network speeds and lower latency, so that those benefiting from these networks will be able to use tomorrow’s internet applications as well as today’s,” the FCC’s website, fcc.gov, states.
Charter Communications was awarded funds through a reverse auction administered by the FCC, which determined providers that could expand coverage at the lowest price. In Indiana, $169 million was awarded to multiple providers, who will set their own schedules for completion and are responsible for the buildout of the products, James said.
Charter Communications plans to invest $5 billion of private capital to expand its 750,00-mile network by 150,000 miles, impacting 24 states. In Indiana, the company plans to add 4,700 miles of fiber cables to its existing 6,600-mile network, James said.
In Boone County, James said the company plans to expand service to 719 homes and businesses, although residents are not obligated to purchase it.
“Even in Lebanon, when we had the COVID lockdowns and they were having instruction at home, we had a number of homes even here in Lebanon where the students could not access at (sufficient) speed the coursework they needed, so they had to go meet together at another location that they could do their coursework at,” Boone County Commissioner Tom Santelli said.
When talking about the proposed speeds, Santelli said the deliverables being worked on are “significant” and “really important.”
For more, visit spectrum.com/cp/build.