This edition of Broadband Bytes includes Private Equity Financing, a possible save for ACP, BEAD state plan approvals coming, Comcast Public/Private Partnerships, Tribal “enforceable commitments” impact on BEAD state maps, state legislation impact on BEAD, and the winning streaming app.

  1. WOW! received an unsolicited offer to be taken private by two private equity firms. The offer could foreshadow more consolidation in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cable ecosystem. The private equity companies DigitalBridge and Crestview submitted an unsolicited offer to purchase the cable company WideOpenWest (WOW!). The move is the latest by a PE firm to acquire broadband assets and could be a sign of more activity to come. The WOW! network passes nearly 2 million residential, business and wholesale consumers. It provides services in 16 markets, primarily in the Midwest and Southeast, including Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, including the new all-fiber networks in Central Florida and Greenville County, South Carolina. Read more.
  2. TDS is getting $375 million in debt financing from Oaktree Capital Management to fund its fiber expansion. The fresh capital comes as TDS reached more than 100K residential broadband connections in expansion markets in Q1. The company is on track to reach 125K new fiber passings in 2024. The transaction is structured as a five-year loan, which the company can repay at any time. Read more here and here.

“If passed, the amendment would reduce ACP eligibility by income from 200% of the federal poverty line to 135%, which is the eligibility threshold for the FCC’s Lifeline program.”

  1. Congress tries desperate save for Affordable Connectivity Program. Senators introduced an amendment to the FAA reauthorization that would give the ACP an additional $6 billion. The FAA amendment would allocate $6 billion in funding for the ACP – somewhat less than what Congress proposed for the $7 billion ACP Extension Act–as well as make a few tweaks to the program. If passed, the amendment would reduce ACP eligibility by income from 200% of the federal poverty line to 135%, which is the eligibility threshold for the FCC’s Lifeline program. Read more. Update May 10: A last-minute effort to save the ACP has failed, along with an effort to make funding available for the Huawei “rip and replace” program, according to news reports. A proposed amendment to a bill to reauthorize the FAA included provisions that would have made funding available for the ACP and the Huawei “rip and replace” program. But as the New York Times reports, the bill has now passed the Senate without amendments. Read more
  2. More ACP impact. Legislation in Pennsylvania could create ACP-like program if passed. A proposed bill in Pennsylvania, H.B. 2195, would give eligible households a $30 monthly subsidy for internet if approved by lawmakers. The bill is listed as currently being considered by the state’s Consumer Protection, Technology & Utilities committee, according to the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s website. Read more

“For years cable operators such as Comcast, Charter and Cox have fought hard against municipal broadband projects, saying that it’s wrong for taxpayer dollars to compete against their private investments. But now, the competitive landscape is shifting.”

  1. Commerce Department is Aiming to Approve All BEAD Plans by Fall. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said (on 5/8/24) that she is looking to have all state plans for the $42.5-billion BEAD program approved by this fall. She also said to look for more approvals in the coming weeks. With full approvals in hand, states will have one year to field grant applications and award funds before getting final approval from the NTIA. Read more.
  2. Comcast partnered with a Virginia county to deploy broadband to unserved locations. The project received $3.4 million in ARPA funds. The company says it’s involved in public-private partnerships across its footprint. For years cable operators such as Comcast, Charter and Cox have fought hard against municipal broadband projects, saying that it’s wrong for taxpayer dollars to compete against their private investments. But now, the competitive landscape is shifting. There is a lot of taxpayer money available through government programs such as ARPA and most significantly through the BEAD program. Read more.
  3. Tribes Likely Have to Challenge RDOF And Other “Enforceable Commitments” on State BEAD Maps. (This is a rather lengthy but interesting article of enforceable commitments on tribal lands and the challenge process where programs like RDOF and BEAD intersect.) When issuing its BEAD guidance, the NTIA determined that federal and state grant funding for buildout on Tribal lands – like RDOF – that do not carry Tribal Government Resolutions of consent are not considered to be enforceable commitments. Without formal Tribal consent in the form of a legally binding agreement, which includes a Tribal Government Resolution, funding programs like RDOF should have no bearing on the BEAD eligibility of locations on Tribal lands. As long as they are not currently receiving service from a provider, these locations should remain BEAD-eligible. All of this means that BEAD offers a way around some funding barriers that would normally be in effect due to programs like RDOF, but that Tribes will have to be vigilant in checking on each state’s individual challenge process. Read more
  4. Minnesota ISPs warn new legislation may stall $651M BEAD plan. Minnesota ISPs are protesting new legislation that includes labor provisions about prevailing wages and certification programs. ISPs warned that the legislation could stall broadband expansion efforts through the BEAD program.  Specifically, they are calling on legislators to remove Article 10 from the larger House Labor Omnibus bill (HF 5242), which includes new labor-related rules, including prevailing wage. The conflict unfolding in Minnesota serves as an example of the significant influence states wield in shaping the broadband landscape, both at the local and federal levels. Read more.

“Over eight hundred rural Americans responded to their streaming service preferences in the annual rural video study…”

  1. The U.S. House voted 374-36 late May 15th to reauthorize the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), aiming to modernize its functions to support the administration’s new mission to provide affordable, reliable high-speed internet access to all U.S. households. This reauthorization, the first in over 30 years, came about due to the dramatic evolution of the NTIA since its last authorization in 1992. The bill passed the House under a suspension of the rules, a procedure that allows for less controversial measures to got to House floor. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, had pushed for a floor vote on Tuesday. Congress mandated NTIA to connect every American to affordable, high-speed internet under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, along with providing funding to get the job done. Read more. 
  2. This is from a survey of only 800 rural users, but the winner is: Over eight hundred rural Americans responded to their streaming service preferences in the annual rural video study which shows a continued fragmentation of the streaming market. Read more.

David Levine of UCL Swift headshot

Broadband Bytes is a regular feature by David Levine. David is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, a certified BICSI RCDD, and a 35-year industry veteran in fiber and copper solutions. He currently works as a Business Development Manager for UCL Swift.

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