Charter taps Gibson to tackle rural broadband in Virginia

Charter Communications is gearing up to deploy nearly 2,000 miles of rural broadband infrastructure in Virginia, turning to Gibson Technical Services to help it with the work.

Gibson parent company Orbital Energy Group said in a press release Charter awarded it a contract to construct a total of 1,910 miles of network infrastructure in the state. Work is set to begin immediately and continue for the “next several years.” The deal adds to the 8,600 miles of fiber Charter recently tapped Gibson to build for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) projects in three states.

Mike McCracken, Gibson CEO, said in a statement the additional award demonstrates Charter’s “continuing confidence in our expertise and abilities” and “illustrates GTS’s capacity to support the buildout of RDOF type programs and related projects, which we expect to continue into 2022 and beyond.”

RELATED: Charter gets cracking on RDOF builds in 3 states

According to the press release, Charter’s contract with Gibson is tied to work the operator is undertaking as part of the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI), a grant program run by the state Department of Housing and Community Development to fuel fiber builds in rural areas. The program requires service providers to team up with government entities to apply for support.

It is unclear, however, what VATI project Gibson will be helping with. Charter declined to comment on the Gibson contract.

Charter applied for a total of $7.88 million in VATI support for six projects in a funding round covering 2021, but an operator representative told Fierce it has not received any VATI funding to date. Indeed, Charter was not listed among the 2021 grant winners announced by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in January and March.

Awards have not yet been made for a nearly $50 million funding round covering 2022, but are expected to be announced in late December.

For the 2022 funding round, Charter applied for a total of $26.9 million in support for two projects. In one of its applications, Charter requested $22.7 million for the proposed construction of 2,000 miles of fiber to connect more than 12,000 homes, businesses and schools across the City of Suffolk, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County.

“When combined with existing areas of broadband service, this project will achieve universal coverage of broadband services for the Participating Localities,” it wrote in its application.

Several other big name companies also requested funding in the current round, including Comcast, Cox Communications, Atlantic Broadband and Shenandoah Telecommunications (Shentel).