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June 16, 2014
Multichannel News

Mediacom Campaigns In Iowa For Rural Broadband

By Kent Gibbons

Cable Company, John Deere Pitch Plan Seeking FCC Aid

Mediacom Communications campaigned in Iowa today for a proposal to obtain government funding for a pilot program that could help bring high-speed broadband to more Iowa farms.

Dan Templin, senior vice president of the cable company's Mediacom Business unit, appeared at the 2014 Connect Iowa Broadband Summit in Ankeny, Iowa, and plugged a proposal that's been made by Mediacom and Deere & Co., better known as farm-equipment supplier John Deere.

In March, they pitched the Federal Communications Commission on a plan to help farmers better exploit the advanced technology of their farming equipment by spreading high-speed broadband to underserved areas of the state. At the conference today, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad appeared with Templin.

The ultimate aim is to prove the business model and use it to connect all commercial farming operations with wireless broadband services, Mediacom said.

The companies' March proposal - seen at WC Docket No. 10-90 -- seeks $800,000 in total for pilot programs in Audubon and Carroll counties. The money as proposed would come from the Connect America Fund, which takes former Universal Service Fund money and reallocates it from phone-service support into capital for rural broadband projects. Money from Mediacom or other sources would provide at least 20% of the funding needed for the project, the company said.

Mediacom said its business-services unit is already bringing fiber-powered broadband to many rural communities across service areas with the Gigabit+ Fiber Solutions Initiative, and that the program with John Deere would drive fiber networks deeper into rural areas of the state.

"What are defined as underserved or unserved areas are increasingly non-traditional communities," Templin said in remarks put out by Mediacom. "For example, large commercial crop operations have a number of advanced-technology machines that need high-speed connectivity to perform optimally, even in the absence of residential consumer demand. And our extensive investment and network deployment in Iowa has us best-positioned to deliver the broadband services agribusinesses require."

In the FCC filing, Mediacom said after it extended fiber lines into the counties, it would "provide retail Wi-Fi service to farms, small businesses and residences over the distributed antenna system at speeds up to approximately 50 Mbps down by 5 Mbps up for approximately $30-80 per month. The Mediacom-provided retail WiFi would support Internet and broadband data services and voice services.

"Mediacom also would make available wholesale fiber connections to small cell multi-user equipment for use by one or more CMRS providers and co-located with the WiFi transceivers. Thus, the deployment provides the opportunity for competition in the provision of wireless broadband and voice services. Interested CMRS providers would pay approximately $5-7 per Mb per month."

The companies said they estimate that about four and nine small cells will be deployed in the unserved census blocks in Audubon and Carroll Counties, respectively. To reach those small cells, Mediacom estimates that it will need to deploy six new fiber route miles in Audubon County and 19 new fiber route miles in Carroll County.