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3/26/2010
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Qwest Seeks $350 Million For Rural Broadband

The telecom firm wants federal government funding to help finance broadband facilities in underserved rural communities.

Qwest Communications has a plan that would help solve the pressing need to extend broadband to rural areas that currently don't have access to the service.

If the federal government funds a Qwest rural broadband program with $350 million, the Denver-based telecommunications company is offering to build broadband facilities to serve more than half a million homes, schools and businesses.

Qwest, which serves millions of rural customers, said its plan seeks to deliver broadband service with download speeds of 12 to 40 Mbps. The proposal calls for the federal government to provide 75% -- $350 million -- with Qwest to provide the remaining 25%, or $117 million.

In the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan, recently submitted to Congress, the FCC cites the pressing need for rural communities underserved by broadband to get access to the high-speed network technology.

"Much like the water and electric programs the government established to encourage rural development," said Qwest's Steve Davis in a statement, "federal grants are needed to enable the deployment of broadband to high-cost, unserved areas." Davis is senior vice president of Qwest Public Policy and Government Relations.

Qwest serves many rural communities throughout its 14-state and local service region. The company noted that the expansive terrain often makes construction of broadband facilities expensive and difficult.

The telecommunications company, which has deployed fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) to 80,000 new customers in its last reported quarter, said it is requesting the stimulus grant from the Broadband Initiatives Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service. Last year, Congress directed the Agriculture Department to create programs to stimulate broadband deployment in underserved rural areas.

"Our plan to deploy service to customers in unserved rural areas supports" the FCC plan to bring broadband access to all Americans, Davis said.

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