CenturyLink broadband availability is uneven, with rural markets suffering, report shows

CenturyLink headquarters
Source: CenturyLink

CenturyLink revealed in its semi-annual broadband deployment report to the FCC that 51 percent of the living units in its more populated legacy Qwest territory can get 40 Mbps or higher. But rural areas overwhelmingly get much slower speeds, showing the disparity between different markets.

In the rural sections of CenturyLink’s legacy Qwest footprint, only 21.9 percent of households can get access to a 40 Mbps copper-based service.

The disparity is due to the challenge of deploying copper-based broadband. Despite advances like VDSL2 and vectoring, CenturyLink is stymied by the physical limitations of copper plant that require electronics to be placed closer to each customer. 

The service provider saw similar variations between rural and non-rural markets for its 12 Mbps and 5 Mbps service. CenturyLink’s 12 Mbps service availability non-rural markets was 71 percent, a figure that drops to 47.6 percent in rural markets. Likewise, the 5 Mbps tier was available to nearly 80 percent of living units in non-rural Qwest markets, while only 61.3 percent could get the same service.

Finally, the 1.5 Mbps service fared a bit better with service noted to be available in 95.6 percent of non-rural markets and 83 percent in rural markets.

Regardless of the differences in the availability of copper-based broadband service speeds, CenturyLink is making progress across all of its markets to make higher speeds available to more customers.

Amidst a challenging second quarter where it lost 65,000 broadband subscribers, CenturyLink has been extending 40 Mbps over existing copper to more customers. Over 8.4 million addressable households and businesses were able to get access 40 Mbps or higher speeds, including 1.2 million GPON-enabled addressable units.

CenturyLink told investors during the earnings call that it expects to reach 11 million premises at 40 Mbps or higher by year-end 2017. Leveraging a mix of VDSL2, bonding and vectoring, the service provider set an ambitious goal to reach 10.5 million, or over 85 percent of addressable broadband-enabled units at 40 Mbps or higher speeds in its top 25 markets by the end of 2018.

Source: CenturyLink Broadband Deployment Semi-Annual Report to FCC, Sept. 1, 2016

For more:
- see the FCC filing (PDF)

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