Both CenturyLink and Frontier Communications have notified the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they’re likely to fall short of the broadband deployment requirements for receiving federal Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II funding.
An FCC program, CAF is designed to expand access to voice and broadband services for areas where they are unavailable. Through CAF Phase II, the Commission provides funding to service providers to subsidize the cost of building new network infrastructure or performing network upgrades to provide voice and broadband service in areas where it is lacking.
In 2015, the FCC authorized 10 telecommunications carriers to receive nearly $9 billion in support over six years for rural broadband deployment from the CAF. CenturyLink is getting nearly $506 million to deploy service to almost 1.2 million homes and businesses in 33 states, while Frontier originally was slated to receive more than $283 million to deploy service to nearly 660,000 homes and businesses, and that later was expanded to 774,000 in 29 states.
Under the requirements, the carriers were required to bring internet access to 80% of funded locations by the end of 2019 and must reach 100% by the end of this year.
In its notification to the FCC, CenturyLink said it now has enabled broadband service at speeds of at least 10/1 Mbps or higher to nearly 900,000 locations. On a state-by-state basis, CenturyLink’s current year-end data reflect that it met or exceeded the program’s interim broadband deployment milestone in 10 states, but it may not have reached the interim milestone in 23 states.
It plans to notify the FCC with specifics by March 1.
CenturyLink provided Channel Partners with the following statement:
“CenturyLink has been making substantial investments to bring broadband to FCC-designated, high-cost locations in the 33 states where it accepted CAF II money and will continue to make these investments. Over the last four years, the company has deployed broadband to nearly 900,000 homes and small businesses in FCC-designated census blocks across rural America. We met our CAF II 2019 enablement milestone in 10 states and are close in the remaining states, where we are working diligently and expect to meet the milestone soon.”
Frontier notified the FCC that it already has enabled broadband service at speeds of at least 10/1 Mbps or higher to more than 596,000 locations, and that it exceeded the interim deadline in 16 states; however, its data reflects that it may not have reached the interim deadline in 13 states.
Frontier’s deployment milestones in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah are the subject of a waiver the FCC granted on Jan. 14, due to unforeseeable hurdles with tribal permitting and rights of way.
Frontier also plans to provide specifics by March 1.
“Frontier continues to deploy broadband to CAF II locations under the program and remains committed to meeting its CAF II obligations,” said Javier Mendoza, Frontier’s vice president of corporate communications and external affairs.
Frontier reportedly is moving closer to filing chapter 11 bankruptcy as it struggles with a $17.5 billion debt load.