Frontier looks for more CAF dollars to build rural broadband

A sunset over a barn structure
Frontier said it has prioritized building infrastructure to rural locations with the slowest broadband, or at least areas where deployment is "economically reasonable." Image: Getty / ehrlif

Frontier Communications is looking to leverage some Connect America Fund (CAF) options to get additional funding in its quest to bring faster internet speeds to rural areas within its footprint. 

The provider identified 515 census blocks in a filing for CAF Phase I Round 2 incremental support, focusing on locations it initially couldn't reach during CAF I that can't access even a minimum 3 Mbps connection.

Frontier may also be able to get CAF II funding rather than CAF I incremental support to build to these areas, the provider noted in its filing.

Joining fellow telcos Consolidated and Windstream, Frontier accepted $283 million annually in CAF II support from the FCC to deploy broadband to more than 650,000 high-cost rural locations throughout its current 28-state service area.

The service provider noted that the locations it is targeting with the CAF II funds are those that are only served by Frontier and not a competitor.

RELATED: Frontier will use CAF II funding to expand broadband in acquired Verizon territories

Without CAF Phase I Round 2, Frontier said in an FCC filing (PDF), these locations would be unserved by fixed internet access with speeds of at least 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream, or 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream.

“Frontier has prioritized its projects so as to maximize the deployment of broadband capable infrastructure to locations lacking Internet access with speeds of 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream,” Frontier said in the FCC filing. “Frontier has explored deployment to all locations lacking 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps locations for which it is economically reasonable before addressing those lacking speeds of 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream.”

If Frontier is able to instead get CAF II support for these locations, the service provider said it would not use the CAF I Round 2 incremental support to boost broadband availability in the markets it entered through its Verizon CTF acquisition or to meet a similar regulatory obligation.

Additionally, Frontier determined these locations are not currently supported by the FCC’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) or the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), projects that will provide internet access with speeds of at least 3 Mbps downstream and 768 upstream.

Frontier’s supplemental CAF proposals have not been without controversy.

After Frontier submitted a list of 3,146 census blocks that it had not previously identified with its initial CAF II election last August, Charter and Comcast submitted objections to the census blocks that Frontier originally submitted.

Charter, which entered into a number of new markets to compete with Frontier and others via its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Communications, said in a response filing (PDF) it already offers internet speeds that exceed 3 Mbps/768 Kbps in 126 of the census blocks designated by Frontier.

Comcast cited a similar situation. The cable MSO said that in 19 of the census blocks Frontier had identified, it “already provides broadband service at speeds exceeding 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream as of June 2016.”