Windstream, currently under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, announced plans to expand internet access to 13 local exchanges in rural Nebraska, while utilizing about $2.2 million in support from the state’s Universal Service Fund.
Awarded by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, the USF funds, along with more than $590,000 in capital from Windstream, will bring faster internet speeds from Windstream’s Kinetic Internet to about 1,500 customer locations.
The company is undertaking 18 separate projects within 13 of its local exchanges where consumers currently lack or have very limited access to broadband.
Windstream says it will deploy fiber optic cable and electronic hardware to provide at least 10 Mbps download speeds, with 80 percent of customers in the project areas qualifying for service speeds of 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps down (3 Mbps to 10 Mbps up).
The project within the Hickman local exchange includes a limited number of fiber-to-the-premises deployments that will provide 1 Gbps service.
In addition to Hickman, the exchanges include:
· Cedar Bluffs
Windstream noted that exchange boundaries are usually larger than municipal boundaries and include additional communities.
“I’m pleased to see the universal service fund doing what we’ve designed it to do, provide access to internet services in the unserved and underserved areas of our state,” said District 3 Commissioner Tim Schram, in a statement. “Now Windstream customers in these 13 exchanges can look forward to receiving high-speed internet access.”
Windstream late last month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after a New York judge ruled that Windstream Service’s 2015 spinoff of certain telecommunications network assets into a real estate investment trust (REIT) violated its agreements with bondholders. The decision, brought on after challenges from Aurelius Capital Management and the U.S. Bank National Association that the spinoff was invalid, effectively caused Windstream to default on various credit and loan agreements.
“Windstream did not arrive in Chapter 11 due to operational failures and currently does not anticipate the need to restructure material operations,” said Tony Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Windstream, in a statement. “While it is unfortunate that Aurelius engaged in these tactics to advance its returns at the expense of Windstream, we look forward to working through the financial restructuring process to secure a sustainable capital structure so we can maintain our strong operational performance and continue serving our customers for many years to come.”
Citigroup Global Markets has committed $1 billion in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing to help Windstream continue operating as usual during the bankruptcy proceedings. The company has requested court approval to continue paying employees, maintain relationships with business partners and vendors, and serve customers.
Following the filing, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks issued a statement saying the situation was concerning and that he would be monitoring it closely to “ensure that there are no disruptions” to critical 911 service provided by Windstream.
“Windstream also provides broadband service to over 1 million customers across the U.S. and it is essential that their interests are represented and protected as the company reorganizes,” Starks said. “I will also be watching to ensure that Windstream makes proper use of the millions of dollars in Universal Service funding it receives and that it meets all broadband connectivity and other commitments related to that funding.”