CenturyLink extends broadband to 600K homes, businesses via CAF-II program

A sunset over a barn structure
CenturyLink has extended broadband to an additional 600,000 homes and small businesses thanks to the FCC's CAF-II program. (Getty/ehrlif)

CenturyLink has inched closer to meeting its FCC CAF-II program commitments, reaching over 600,000 rural homes and businesses with broadband over the past two years.

In August 2015, CenturyLink accepted $500 million in CAF-II funding. This money, combined with its own capital, will ultimately enable the telco to deliver broadband services to about 1.2 million rural households and businesses in 33 states over the next six years.

As part of that commitment, the service provider has committed to provide 10/1 Mbps speeds in these regions.

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RELATED: CenturyLink accepts $500M in CAF II funds, plans to extend broadband to 1.2M rural households

While 10/1 Mbps was the initial target, CenturyLink said that about 70% of the homes in the target areas have speeds of 20 Mbps or higher. CenturyLink is on track to have enabled 60% of its CAF commitments by the end of 2018. 

“Many rural schools, libraries, hospitals and public safety agencies are now benefitting from our broadband upgrades and investment thanks to the Connect America Fund,” said John F. Jones, CenturyLink senior vice president of public policy and government relations, in a release. “While building broadband infrastructure in rural areas is difficult, we have focused on bringing broadband to as many consumers as possible as quickly as possible.”

Like its other ILECs Frontier and Windstream, CenturyLink also participated in CAF-I, accepting $75 million in support to bring 4 Mbps broadband to 114,000 unserved rural locations.

Fellow telco Frontier has also been active on the CAF-II front. The Stamford, Connecticut-based telco has extended broadband service to over 275,000 households across California, using a mix of its own capital and CAF-II funding. Overall, Frontier has continued to make progress with its CAF-II build-out commitments, reaching the 40% milestone set by the FCC under the CAF-II program.

Rural broadband overall continues to be a hot topic as of late not just at CenturyLink and Frontier, but also in the broader government stage.

Earlier this week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai produced an order to promote more rural broadband deployments. If the order is adopted, it would provide over $500 million in additional funding for cooperatives and small rural carriers. 

The order would also put in place strong new rules to prevent abuse of the high-cost program. Additionally, the order proposes several reforms to the FCC’s high-cost program to improve its effectiveness and efficiency in promoting rural broadband deployment, including the use of a Tribal Broadband Factor to enable better access on Tribal lands. 

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators has called upon President Trump to include funding for expanding broadband access to rural communities as part of his broad infrastructure plan.

Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) sent a letter to the White House on Wednesday talking about how broadband is important to the health of rural communities.

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