Windstream Communications’ petition for waiver of funding requirements connected with the Phase I Connect America Fund (CAF) has triggered opposition from wireless providers and cable operators, who contend that a grant of the request will undermine the deployment of broadband Internet networks in rural and other underserved areas. Incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) and their supporters, however, point to Windstream’s previous significant investments in broadband as evidence of the carrier’s commitment to the FCC’s broadband deployment goals that, in turn, would justify the relief sought by Windstream. This week, the FCC accepted industry comments on the petition, which was filed earlier this summer by Windstream and seeks waiver of the FCC’s rule that requires a price cap carrier to deploy broadband to one unserved location for every $775 it accepts in CAF support. Although the FCC offered Windstream $60.4 million in Phase I CAF support, the carrier accepted only $635,000 of that amount to deploy broadband service to 843 locations. In its waiver request, Windstream argued that the $775 in incremental CAF support offered by the FCC for broadband deployment is sufficient only for low-cost areas and “insufficient to make deployment economic in a truly high-cost area.” However, while citing the difficulties faced by commenters in evaluating the financial data provided in Windstream’s heavily redacted petition, Sprint Nextel advised the FCC that, even if Windstream’s cost estimates are accurate, “one may reasonably question whether distributing CAF Phase I support to such costly areas is a fair and efficient use of scarce USF dollars.” Protesting the request, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association warned the FCC against “[undermining] its efforts to accelerate fixed broadband deployment in unserved areas simply because Windstream finds the subsidy to be ‘insufficient to make deployment economic.’” As the National Cable and Telecommunications Association argued that the petition “fails to satisfy the legal standards required to issue the requested relief,” the American Cable Association said,” the Commission has rightly emphasized the limited nature of the Phase I program . . .and its focus on developing a cost model under which it would award substantially more support for the far-reaching Phase II regime.” ILECs, meanwhile, lined up in defense of Windstream. Supporting Windstream’s request, Frontier Communications stressed that, “due to its previous efforts to deploy broadband to the areas the Commission finds the most lacking—the high cost areas—the CAF Phase I rules do not currently work for Windstream.”