Archive of the Independent Category

FCC misses broadband plan deadline — delayed a month

The FCC will a congressionally-mandated deadline to deliver a national broadband plan, today asking Congress for a four-week extension to more hold more briefings and gain additional input. more

First broadband stimulus winners announced

Vice President Joe Biden announced the recipients of the first $182 million in broadband stimulus grants today (just 9% of the first round of funding and 2% of the overall total) in Dawsonville, Ga.

The 18 projects included in the winners being announced today will benefit 17 states and have already been matched by more than $46 million in private funding, the White House said.

UPDATE: The full list of recipients announced today is available here.

Though the administrators of the program promised to announce the first round of winners this month, the White House said today those announcements — pertaining to $2 billion in awards — will be spread out over the next 75 days. Of the $182 million in funds being announced today, $129 million will come from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and $54 million will come from the Rural Utilities Service.

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The awards announced today include: more

Small cableco claims fastest US wireless data: up to 15 Mb/s

BendBroadband, a family-owned cable and broadband provider serving Bend, Ore., is claiming to have launched the nation’s fastest wireless data service, with speeds averaging between 6 and 8 megabits per second and reaching 15 Mb/s “under optimal conditions.”

The company is delivering those speeds with an HSPA+ (High Speed Packet Access Plus) wireless broadband network that is upgradable to Long Term Evolution (LTE).

The company is supplying users with WiFi-enabled modems for home networks along with a USB device to access its network “virtually anywhere in Central Oregon.” It plans to launch a “feature-rich” residential telephony service next year. more

UBS: Qwest could be bought by smaller RLEC

Qwest Communications (NYSE: Q) “could become a target of rural wireline consolidation,” according to UBS analyst John Hodulik. “Despite its much larger size, we believe Qwest could become a takeover candidate” for CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL) or even Windstream (NASDAQ:WIN), he said in a research note this week. Piper Jaffray analyst Chris Larsen made a similar observation earlier this month.

A deal like that is easier to imagine after CenturyTel’s purchase of much-larger Embarq this year. And it would probably have to wait until CenturyLink or Windstream had integrated their newly acquired assets – perhaps the middle of next year, Hodulik said. Both CenturyLink and Windstream have indicated they’re not done yet with M&A.

But Hodulik’s prediction is 180 degrees from those made by other analysts this spring, when Qwest was reportedly exploring selling off its long-haul network. Funds from such a sale could have allowed the carrier to roll up other rural carriers, analysts said at the time. But a sale never took place.

Allied Wireless hiring at new Little Rock HQ

Allied Wireless, a subsidiary of Massachusetts-based Atlantic Tele-Network (NASDAQ:ATNI), is building a new headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., the company announced today along with plans to hire 200 to 250 workers at the new location.

Allied was created to operate wireless assets acquired by Atlantic that had been divested as part of Verizon Wireless’s acquisition of Alltel. Atlantic had previously hinted that it might choose Little Rock to set up its new base of operations, in part because hundreds of layoffs following Verizon’s acquisition have left a ready pool of available talent there.

In September, 13-year Alltel veteran Frank O’Mara was named to lead the acquired business, which includes 800,000 subscribers in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio and Idaho.

As Frontier awaits Verizon lines, cable guys pounce

Competitors are pouncing on Verizon Communications’ (NYSE:VZ) move to sell 4.8 million access lines to Frontier Communications (NYSE:FTR) in 14 states, reaching out to Verizon customers in those areas and urging them to switch providers before the network changes hands.

In particular, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) has been targeting customers in Washington and Oregon, according to Donald Shassian, Frontier’s chief financial officer. Those attacks are made easier by the high-profile service problems Verizon customers saw in the Northeast after they became Fairpoint Communications customers, in a similar transaction. Frontier says it knows how to avoid the problems that beset Fairpoint. But in the mean time, while its deal is still pending (perhaps until next summer), Frontier can’t fight back in the markets it has yet to acquire.

“We can’t force [Verizon] to come up with a new promotion or new incentives or change their marketing,” Shassian said at an investor conference this week. “It’s been challenging to compete against Comcast’s campaign like that. We can’t advertise in those markets because we don’t have regulatory approval. That [would be] poking a regulator in the chest. You can’t assume you’re going to get something. You’ve got to sit back on your heels and hope Verizon does their best.” more

FCC plans to turn over private data to aid broadband stimulus

The public has until Monday (Dec. 7) to comment on plans the FCC announced the day before Thanksgiving to release its vast database of private telecom services to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for it to use in evaluating whether broadband stimulus proposals refer to so-called “unserved” and “underserved” areas. more

TelephonyOnline wins Min’s award for USF audit column

We’re proud to announce that TelephonyOnline was the winner for best online column in min’s 2009 Editorial & Design Awards, which recognize excellence in content and design among consumer and business-to-business media.The award is for a December 2008 column titled “What the FCC didn’t tell us about the USF audit.” In the column, TelephonyOnline contributing editor Joan Engebretson questioned statements from the FCC, which estimated that small rural carriers had been overpaid by $970 million for providing phone service to high-cost areas.

Joan did her own analysis of the data and determined that the FCC’s estimate was too high, overstating the overpayment by a factor of five or more.

We congratulate Joan for her excellent work.

After Windstream buys Iowa, is Consolidated next?

What’s next for Windstream (NYSE:WIN)? As it announced its fourth acquisition in six months yesterday (its biggest buy yet, in fact), the company’s CEO, Jeff Gardner, maintained that, although he’d focus on execution and integration, he wasn’t done with M&A.

“A number of private companies could be opportunities for us in the future,” he told Connected Planet Tuesday. “There’s not a lot of public companies left out there, but there are a couple.”

A couple is right. In a note yesterday, Stifel Nicolaus analysts said Consolidated Communications (NASDAQ:CNSL) and Alaska Communications (NASDAQ:ALSK) are about the only publicly held acquisition targets Windstream has left. And given the unique integration challenges posed by Alaska’s geographic isolation, the analysts said, “We view Consolidated as the next, most logical potential target for Windstream.” more

Windstream acquires Iowa Telecom

Windstream (NYSE:WIN) is acquiring Iowa Telecom (NYSE:IWA), the company announced today, in its biggest acquisition since the initial merger that created the rural carrier in 2005.

Windstream’s $1.1-billion purchase comes just three weeks after its $643 million acquisition of another carrier, NuVox, and two weeks after it closed its acquisition of D&E Communications. Two months ago, the company acquired a small triple-play provider, Lexcom, for $141 million. more

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