Windstream Holdings Inc. announced Monday that it plans to double down on its commitment to broadband deployment by forming an internal unit dedicated to overseeing its fiber build-out in Arkansas and 17 other states.
The company says its Kinetic broadband business unit will create 1,000 new jobs -- including in rural communities in Arkansas -- beginning later this year as it converts from outsourcing fiber construction to forming an internal construction effort that will begin in 2022.
The effort should add a handful of jobs to rural areas such as Harrison, Greenbrier, Glenwood, Fordyce and Texarkana, company officials said Monday.
"This is a significant endeavor to deliver fiber to our customers in a multiyear effort," Kinetic President Jeff Small said. "We will be able to reach a couple of million homes."
Construction teams will be based in more than 70 locations across the Kinetic footprint, working as part of existing locations to strengthen fiber construction and maintenance in local communities.
Windstream has committed to investing $2 billion over the next five years to deliver 1-gigabit fiber to rural residents across its region. The company also has been given nearly $5 million from the state to expand broadband in Dallas, Montgomery and White counties.
In addition, it has been awarded $523 million by the Federal Communications Commission to expand fiber broadband to 200,000 customers in its footprint. That includes about $57 million in federal dollars to extend broadband to nearly 20,000 homes and small- to medium-sized businesses in Arkansas.
"We believe bringing the facilities in-house gives us much greater control over the execution and delivery of the kind of quality network that our customers expect," Small said, noting that the initiative signals the company's full commitment to delivering broadband to rural areas.
The new engineering and fiber construction organization will be part of the Kinetic unit, which today has about 5,000 employees. The internal construction team should be in place by 2022, the company said.
Windstream also said that Vermeer Corp. of Pella, Iowa, will be the company's strategic supplier of construction equipment for the new organization.