Marina Marin broadband

Siri Hedreen / The Outlook

A spool of fiber-optic cable sits outside the entrance to the Marina Marin development. Point Broadband won an FCC reverse auction contract to bring internet to Marina Marin in December.

Charter Communications subsidiary Spectrum Southeast has pulled out of its broadband expansion project in the Marina Marin development of Lake Martin, despite winning a 35% reimbursement grant from the state. 

The $245,567 broadband expansion grant, awarded by the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund last July, was criticized from the beginning as a poor use of taxpayer funds for a project intended for "rural, unserved areas." Nearly one year into the two-year project, Marina Marin Homeowners Association president Freida Limerick said Charter had yet to begin and was not returning residents' calls.

Now the internet provider is confirming it's decided not to build.   

"Charter has not received any Alabama Broadband Accessibility grant funds related to this build-out and will not be proceeding with the Marina Marin project," Charter spokesperson Patti Michel said.

However, according to Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) which awards the grant, the rural broadband grant program only pays after a project is completed within two years.

"ADECA verifies that the service has been made available as stated in the grant agreement before any funds are reimbursed for a project," ADECA spokesperson Mike Presley told The Outlook earlier this week. "Providers do not receive any grant funds upfront."

Charter has since received seven more Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund grants to bring internet to seven other rural areas in the state.

Meanwhile, Point Broadband has entered the Marina Marin market. In December, the provider won a reverse auction bid — i.e., offered the lowest price for a government contract — by the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, to bring internet to the Marina Marin development.

Point is now several months into laying broadband cables down the Marina Marin peninsula, in an area that overlaps with much of Charter's intended Marina Marin build-out. Unlike Charter, Point is charging households $1,000 to lay cables to their home.

According to Limerick, Point has already connected 30 of the 50 homes within the subdivision.