CenturyLink in holding pattern on broadband internet expansion
In the spring of 2017, Frontier Communications’ long-awaited and much anticipated broadband internet expansion under the Connect America Fund (CAF II) , finally got underway in Lincoln County. By the end of the 2017 construction season, 633 households in the Tomahawk and northern portion of the county were eligible to connect to high speed internet service at a minimum speed of 10 Mb/s. The expansion progressed to the southern portion of the county last spring, providing eligibility for access to nearly 3,400 households in the Merrill area and beyond. While many rural residents are pleased to finally have access to high-speed internet, other residents who have CenturyLink as their provider, have been left to wait and wonder when it will be their turn to benefit from the expansion.
Unfortunately, that wait will apparently continue.
According to Linda Johnson, Corporate Communications Officer with CenturylLnk, customers in the Gleason and Brantwood areas are eligible for broadband expansion under CAF II, and have been since the company accepted over $500 million in funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015. Over $364,000 was to be invested for expansion in Lincoln County alone, serving 685 rural households. That same year, Frontier was awarded $203 million, with $1,525,879 to be invested for Lincoln County alone, with a projected reach of 3,830 households.
“In August 2015, CenturyLink accepted CAF II money, to be received over six years, from the FCC and committed to bring broadband with download speeds of at least 10 Mb/s to approximately 129,000 locations in FCC-designated, high-cost census blocks in Wisconsin,” Peterson stated.
“Over the last three years, CenturyLink has deployed broadband to more than 75,000 locations in Wisconsin through the FCC’s CAF program, which runs through 2021. Portions of CenturyLink’s Brantwood and Gleason service territory in Lincoln County are eligible for the CAF program, but these areas have not yet been included in our buildout plans. Over the next two years, we will be evaluating those locations for broadband deployment, along with many others in Wisconsin, in order to meet our CAF buildout commitments in the state.”
Peterson did not give any specific details on projected start or end dates for expansion-related construction.
About CAF II
According to the FCC, just like telephone service in the 20th Century, broadband has become essential to life in the 21st Century. But, prior to 2015, nearly one in three rural Americans lack access to 10/1 broadband, compared to only one in 100 urban Americans. The Connect America Fund is designed to close that rural-urban digital divide.
The FCC’s traditional universal service program succeeded in ensuring telephone network coverage in rural America by providing subsidies where the cost of service would otherwise be prohibitive. In late 2011, the FCC modernized the program to support networks capable of providing broadband and voice services, and created the Connect America Fund to efficiently and effectively administer that support to expand broadband in rural areas where market forces alone can’t support expansion.