Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Experience Matters: TDS Retains Four Engineering Firms to Manage $136 Million in Stimulus Work

Retention of Four Firms with Deep RUS Experience Shows TDS Gets It 02/21/2011 San Francisco - TDS Telecommunications Corp. (NYSE: TDS) yesterday announced it has selected and retained 4 engineering firms to manage the implementation of its broadband stimulus funded portfolio of 44 projects in 20 states. The company is managing a full $136 million in awarded stimulus grants and loans, and its own "local match" funds used to secure those awards.  

The announcement by the Madison, WI based rural local exchange carrier (RLEC) marks the issuance of the largest single group of engineering contracts financed to date under the federal broadband stimulus program.

TDS, like its large telco colleagues Qwest Communications International, Inc. (NYSE: Q) and Windstream Corporation  (NASDAQ: WIN) all applied for broadband stimulus funds solely to the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS).

Windstream did so only in funding Round 2, after going on a months-long effort to change the application rules. Qwest worked with RUS to have the agency amend the rules in the second round, but did so by making far less noise about it. TDS as the only carrier of the 3 to seek funds in both rounds.

TDS and Windstream were 2 of the largest multi-project winners under the entire $7.2 billion program of the Obama Administration. Qwest, which filed the largest single funding request, at $350 million, of the entire program received not a thin dime.

Yesterday's announcement by TDS is proof, yet again, that after months of delays and even some level of funds returned to the feds by companies, the broadband stimulus funding is now flowing and something more than a minuscule rate. 

RUS Experience is Key
It is also proof of a cardinal rule of network development, and of dealing with a federal grant or loan agency: Experience matters. 

The 4 retained firms have track records of working with RUS, some of which go back decades. RUS, the only federal agency that prior to the stimulus handed out monies for telecom infrastructure, has its own bureaucratic hierarchy with field agents across the nation, its own rules, and its own procedures. As many broadband stimulus winners now attempting to work with RUS for the first time, those processes can be daunting.

TDS, as it looked for engineering companies to drive the network builds in its stimulus portfolio, first and foremost looked for firms with deep experience in negotiating that very specific set of procedures and rules. TDS certainly gets it, in terms of how to disburse federal monies -- a critical skill set all together too many other stimulus awardees are missing.

"RUS experience was absolutely essential in making our selections," said DeAnne Boegli, National Public Relations Manager for TDS in a phone interview this morning.  

“We selected these firms based on their experience, attention to quality work, and ability to execute our designs with professionalism and speed,” says Larry Boehm in the TDS release, director of Network Implementation and Optimization for TDS. “We made a commitment to taxpayers to complete this work within 36 months and these firms and their many skilled employees and subcontractors will ensure we meet that commitment.”

The 4 firms will, according to a TDS release of yesterday, "implement the broadband network designs which were completed by TDS Network Services teams and recently approved by the USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act."

Four Firms Selected
The professional engineering firms selected by TDS are:

MEComm Consultants, LP
For projects in: Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, and New York.

Joseph D. Fail Engineering Co., Inc.
For projects in: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.

CHR Solutions, Inc.
For projects in: Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Rocky Mountain West Telecom (dba RMWT)
For projects in: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Washington.

The company states that the projects will be completed "by the end of 2013", and that all 44 projects are "currently underway."
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