Charter Communications today announced the launch of a multiyear, multibillion-dollar broadband buildout initiative to deliver gigabit high-speed broadband access to more than 1 million unserved customer locations, as estimated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and awarded to Charter in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction. Charter expects to invest approximately $5 billion to support its buildout initiative - offset by $1.2 billion in support won from the RDOF auction - expanding Charter's network to lower-density, mostly rural communities that do not have access to broadband service of at least 25/3 Mbps.
The new initiative is in addition to Charter's existing network expansion plans, including numerous state broadband grant projects, as well as the Company's previously planned privately funded expansions. The network Charter will build in these rural areas will offer 1 Gbps high–speed broadband access to all newly served customer locations with starting speeds of 200 Mbps, enabling consumers to engage in remote learning, work, telemedicine and other applications that require high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity. These new customer locations also will benefit from Charter's high-value Spectrum pricing and packaging structure, including its Spectrum Mobile, Spectrum TV and Spectrum Voice offerings. The company will continue to apply its customer-friendly policies in newly served regions, including no data caps, modem fees or annual contracts, combined with high-quality service provided by U.S.-based, insourced employees.
The announced initiative offers Charter an attractive long-term investment opportunity, says the company, as it will drive additional customer growth via an expanded footprint in unserved areas. Additionally, the presence of Charter's modern communications network in these rural areas may result in economic development and more homes and businesses for Charter to serve in these communities and additional buildout to adjacent communities, producing greater investment returns over time. Charter looks forward to participating in additional public-private partnerships to expand broadband access.
"The pandemic has further highlighted the need for broadband availability and adoption and Charter is committed to furthering its efforts as part of the comprehensive solution needed to address these challenges," said Tom Rutledge, Chairman and CEO of Charter Communications. "As Americans across the country increasingly rely on broadband to work, learn, access healthcare and stay in touch with family and loved ones, bringing broadband access to more unserved areas should be a priority for all stakeholders. Charter's new multibillion-dollar buildout initiative further highlights the importance of the sophisticated broadband networks that the U.S. cable industry has built over several decades, and the industry's commitment to the local communities it serves. As we continue to help provide more Americans with reliable access to the internet ecosystem, our hope is that federal, state and local authorities, other private companies, pole owners and broadband providers will work together and play a pivotal role in expanding networks to unserved areas."
Preparation for the RDOF Phase I broadband buildout has already begun and will include Charter expanding its existing construction organization in order to focus on deployment of this new fiber optic network. Charter expects to hire more than 2,000 employees and contractors to support the RDOF and future rural buildout initiatives. In addition to Charter's ongoing network expansion, the RDOF program alone will drive a 15% increase in the company's network mileage coverage while expanding service to more than 1 million previously unserved homes and businesses across 24 states as estimated by the FCC. The states are: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The successful and timely execution of the announced initiative is dependent on a variety of external factors, including the utility pole permitting and "make-ready" processes, says Charter. With fewer homes and businesses in these areas, broadband providers need to access multiple poles for every new home served, as opposed to multiple homes per pole in higher-density settings. As a result, pole applications, pole replacement rules and their affiliated issue resolution processes are all factors that can have a significant impact on the length of time it takes to build into these rural areas.
Charter's Rutledge added, "The more cooperation we have with the pole owners and utility companies, the faster we can connect these communities with high-speed internet services. We look forward to working with local municipalities, electric cooperatives, and investor-owned utilities to ensure that permits are obtained in a timely, fair and cost-effective fashion."
Charter notes its operating strategy has succeeded in producing industry-leading broadband growth and the associated construction experience that will facilitate the company's continued expansion of rural connectivity services and ongoing success for all stakeholders. In the last three years alone, Charter has invested more than $20 billion in American infrastructure and technology, continually investing in its existing network to provide new services and accommodate higher traffic, and has at the same time extended its network to reach nearly 2.5 million new homes and businesses, about one-third of which are in rural areas.
More information can be found at https://corporate.charter.com/.