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A survey of rural broadband operators has found that most are planning to seek federal stimulus money to extend their networks — and most say they are planning on laying fast-connecting fiber to homes rather than slower coaxial or copper cable. The survey of 100 rural operators was done by telecom-equipment maker Calix. The budgets reported by most operators were small, only $1 or $2 million. A third of those seeking money said they would ask for $21 million or more. Still, the amounts are small compared to the $7 billion set aside for rural projects. 

But their reach is large, according to Calix’s survey. “The infrastructure builders are clearly not thinking in terms of just reaching the small area at the edge of their network, but they’re actually looking at this much more broadly,” said a Calix official. Several of the rural providers were planning projects that would serve up to 100,000 homes.

The survey found that rural providers were expanding on their own. More than half of the providers surveyed said the stimulus money would represent less than 40% of their planned capital expenditures on broadband projects. Meanwhile, many large providers (Verizon and AT&T) have said they may drop out of the broadband program altogether if government regulations are too “onerous.”

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