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Qwest seeks $350 million for rural broadband service [The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa]
[March 26, 2010]

Qwest seeks $350 million for rural broadband service [The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa]

(Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Mar. 26--Qwest says it will spend $29 million in Iowa to bring high-speed broadband service to about 27,000 homes and businesses in rural communities if its bid for federal broadband stimulus funds is successful.

The Denver-based regional telecommunications company announced Thursday that it applied under the Rural Broadband Initiative for $350 million for broadband installations and upgrades throughout its 14state territory. It would use the federal grant for a $467 million fiber-optic network that would provide data speeds of between 12 megabytes per second and 40 megabytes per second to customers.

Qwest sat out the first round of the grants in the rural broadband program, which has yielded little for Iowa. Spokeswoman Joanna Hjelme land said the first-round program required applicants to provide a 50 percent match.

"It was just hard for Qwest in this economy to make the business case work," Hjelmeland said. She said Qwest also was concerned about the limitations in round one. The markets served had to be 50 miles from a city center, she said, and the definition of city center was vague.

The new program has clearer definitions and funds 75 percent of the project, Hjelmeland said. Qwest proposes to provide service from 130 hubs in Iowa, including Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Marion, Mount Vernon, North Liberty, Solon and Toddville. In many cases, the communities listed already have broadband service with speeds significantly slower than proposed.

Among the other Eastern Iowa cities proposed for high-speed broadband are Anamosa, Monticello, Decorah, Muscatine, Scotch Grove, Langworthy and Bellevue. The service would not go "border-do-border" but would target areas of customer concentration that could be economically served, Hjelmeland said.

Hjelmeland said Qwest hopes to know whether it will receive the grant by mid-September.

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Copyright (c) 2010, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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