September 22, 2023 12:11 pm

Local News

$50 Million Awarded to NH Electric Cooperative for Broadband Buildout

Credit: iStock

by Amanda Gokee, New Hampshire Bulletin

The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative has won a $50 million grant to build out broadband in rural parts of the state.

The grant was awarded by the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs as part of $221 million in federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.

An initial estimate from the governor’s office found that the $50 million program would be enough to provide service to around half of the 30,000 addresses in the state that lack internet. But the co-op said in an announcement Wednesday it will reach 23,000 addresses with the grant money, or around 75 percent of those without service.

The state prioritized cooperatives, nonprofits, and municipalities in the selection process to choose the bidder that could provide service to the most addresses for the least cost. The co-op will also be required to provide a low-cost option for high-speed access.

Lack of infrastructure is one reason some households can’t access broadband, but affordability is another. While around 5 percent of Granite Staters live in a place without broadband infrastructure, about 10 percent don’t have an internet subscription, according to a White House fact sheet.

The buildout will reach co-op members in 73 towns across Grafton, Belknap, Carroll, Coos, Sullivan, and Merrimack counties, according to the electric provider. The co-op does not yet have an estimate about when service will be available but is up against a federal 2026 deadline to complete the project.

The state received an additional $66 million in September and has put out another request for proposal to bidders to spend $40 million of that money on building infrastructure. That proposal is due by Nov. 28.

This story was written by Amanda Gokee, a reporter at the New Hampshire Bulletin, where this story first appeared.

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