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Qwest earmarks $55 million for broadband in Arizona

Phoenix Business Journal

by Patrick O'Grady

March 25, 2010


Qwest in Arizona expects to spend $55 million to beef up the state’s broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE:Q) announced Thursday it is seeking $350 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service to expand broadband throughout its 14-state territory.

Arizona will be a prime recipient of that money, as the national telecom company plans to spend about $55 million in the state including grant money and Qwest’s contribution to the program.

The move will mean more broadband connectivity for rural hospitals, medical centers and education facilities under the plan, said Jim Campbell, president of Qwest in Arizona.

“You look at the number of doctors and hospitals that could be connected that will have the same kind of connection that we have in the Valley,” he said.

Qwest plans to combine a $350 million federal grant with about $117 million of its own funds to push out its broadband network to areas not currently served. The plan is to bring speeds of from 12 to 40 megabits per second to those regions. It’s a move the company has been working on for months, and one that mirrors the objectives of a federal broadband plan released last week.

If the grant is approved, the work can begin by next year, Campbell said.

The company estimates that in Arizona, more than 82,000 residences would be affected along with nearly 5,000 business. Also included in the connection would be 56 schools, 193 offices for medical and health providers and 105 government facilities.

Communities impacted range from Apache Junction and North Scottsdale in the Valley to Casa Grande, Chino Valley Tombstone and Sedona, officials said.

Campbell said the company estimates the expansion would give Qwest more than 90 percent broadband coverage in the state. The company also estimates that installing broadband in rural areas would create or save about 2,775 jobs and increase state tax income about $3.6 million.

“There is an economic engine that broadband connectivity creates,” he said.