UPDATED: TDS nears completion of Chatham, Mich.-area broadband stimulus project

TDS Telecom (NYSE: TDS) on Thursday said its first American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus-funded broadband Internet project in Chatham, Mich., is almost complete.

At this stage, the telco is delivering DSL-based broadband service to almost every residence, or 96 percent, in the area.

Cindy Tomlinson, a spokeswoman for TDS Telecom, told FierceTelecom the ARRA funding helped it reach an area of Michigan that was quite challenging to build a broadband network.   

"The challenges are many: these are remote, sparsely populated areas within our exchanges; the rural geography pushes the limits of technology," she said. "Combined these two issues made it very difficult (albeit nearly impossible) to develop a solid business case for deploying broadband services here. Funding from the ARRA made it possible to turn the business case positive for us to be able to expand services in the Chatham area."

The service provider said the remaining stimulus-funded area near Au Train should be completed and ready to provide services to customers by this summer.

Funded by an $8.6 million grant TDS got from the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) in December 2009, the project will ultimately connect over 900 residents to broadband DSL. Chatham is the first area where TDS is now offering customers broadband Internet services with speeds ranging from 1 to 25 Mbps in some areas.

Thus far, TDS has installed 125 miles of fiber cabling; in addition, 29 remote terminal cabinets housing Broadband Loop Carrier (BLC) systems to deliver services to customers were placed throughout all five of TDS' Chatham Telephone Company exchange areas to provide broadband service to more area residents.

Of course, the other question is what about IPTV, a service TDS plans to roll out in additional 19 markets this year and in 2013? Tomlinson said they have no plans to bring IPTV to Chatham at this time, adding that "we will continue to look at opportunities and product expansion, but it's not part of our current TDS TV (a.k.a. IPTV) roll-out plan."

Overall, TDS received 44 ARRA grants to extend broadband service to residential and business customers in 20 states.

The service provider has invited telecom contractors to bid on broadband stimulus projects in four other states including Colorado, Idaho, Tennessee and Washington.

Tomlinson said that "construction is underway on 37 of the 44 projects TDS received ARRA funding for," adding that they "expect to turn up services in nearly all of the remaining markets throughout 2013."

For more:
- see the release

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