CenturyLink, Frontier say CAF-II should support 10/1 Mbps in all high-cost areas

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) and Frontier Communications say in a joint filing that the second phase of the FCC's Connect America Fund (CAF-II) should support the regulator's 10/1 proposed broadband definition in all rural areas they serve today.

"If 10/1 is the new standard then all high-cost areas lacking 10/1 service today should be eligible for support," CenturyLink and Frontier wrote in their joint filing.

By ensuring support for 10/1 Mbps in rural areas, the FCC would be able through CAF-II to serve another 500,000 customer locations and all rural areas would be "treated equally." The two service providers said that "ignoring high cost areas that lack 10/1 service would mean stranding these customers with substandard broadband at a time when FCC is calling for higher speeds across the nation."

Both service providers point out that they have continually expanded the reach and speeds of their broadband networks.

CenturyLink offers 12 Mbps DSL-based broadband service to 55 percent of customers and 40 Mbps to 25 percent of its customers.

Likewise, Frontier provided broadband services to 92 percent of its legacy rural markets when it acquired Verizon's assets in 2010, which had only 60 percent availability at that time. Today, Frontier said it can offer 6 Mbps to 83 percent of its customers, 12 Mbps to 75 percent of customers, and 20 Mbps or higher to 54 percent of its customers.

CenturyLink and Frontier accepted CAF-I funding to expand services into hard-to-reach areas.

CenturyLink initially only accepted $35 million of the $90 million CAF I funding it was eligible for in 2012 because it said that the $775 per household restriction the FCC imposed in the CAF-I rules would not work.

Frontier accepted $71.9 million in CAF-I funding, which it will use to upgrade facilities in its territory to provide broadband DSL service to an additional 92,876 households.

Although the CAF-I funding program helped both CenturyLink and Frontier expand broadband into more high-cost areas, both point out that the FCC needs to get the issues with the CAF-II program resolved so service providers can get services to more rural customers.

"The delay in CAF Phase II implementation has cost the entire nation as millions of Americans remain without broadband because the support has not been distributed," CenturyLink and Frontier wrote in the filing.

These two carriers' concerns about implementing the CAF-II funds have gotten support from over 40 members of Congress, which asked the FCC in September to give service providers the flexibility they need to deploy high-speed broadband connections to more hard-to-reach communities.

For more:
- see the FCC filing (.pdf)

Related articles:
Members of Congress seek flexibility in FCC's rural broadband requirements
FCC's Connect America Fund II receives mixed response
FCC's wireline bureau launches Connect America Phase II challenge process
CenturyLink is eligible for another $90M in FCC CAF-I funds
Frontier applies for $71.5M in CAF Phase I rural broadband funding