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CenturyLink Takes $3B In Subsidies For Building Out Rural Broadband 199

New submitter club77er writes with a link to a DSL Reports article outlining some hefty subsidies (about $3 billion, all told) that CenturyLink has signed up to receive, in exchange for expanding its coverage to areas considered underserved: According to the CenturyLink announcement, the telco will take $500 million a year for six years from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Connect America Fund (CAF). In exchange, it will expand broadband to approximately 1.2 million rural households and businesses in 33 states. While the FCC now defines broadband as 25 Mbps down, these subsidies require that the deployed services be able to provide speeds of at least 10 Mbps down.
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CenturyLink Takes $3B In Subsidies For Building Out Rural Broadband

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  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Sunday August 30, 2015 @07:00PM (#50423201)

    In January we got Broadband! A whopping 5Mbps. It was amazing. We loved it.

    Then the FCC took away our Broadband. They changed the definition to 25Mbps so now we have a paltry 5Mbps! Horrible.

    Not.

    • The definition is relevant because the whole point of it was to determine who could collect public funds for installing internet access, yet these guys are getting public funding they don't deserve because they are not meeting the requirement.

    • Sort of a corollary to this: if we're going to subsidize a broadband provider, why are we subsidizing the slowest provider, one that is locked in to an obsolete technology? It is as though Franklin Roosevelt had funded the Rural Oil Lamp Administration.

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Sunday August 30, 2015 @07:09PM (#50423227) Journal

    If they take our money to build the line, they are acting as an agent of the state (so, yes we can say the government put in the line) and they must lease it out at reasonable rates.

    • by kenh ( 9056 ) on Sunday August 30, 2015 @07:13PM (#50423243) Homepage Journal

      Ha-ha, that's funny.

      Why doesn't that apply for football stadiums that are built with taxpayer subsidies?

    • I'm mad because in ten years they still won't have delivered, will have spent the bulk of the money on executive bonuses and won't get punished. Keep the subsidies, make em pay it back with interest if they're so much as a smidge off
      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        I'm mad because in ten years they still won't have delivered, will have spent the bulk of the money on executive bonuses and won't get punished. Keep the subsidies, make em pay it back with interest if they're so much as a smidge off

        Better yet, why not pay on delivery? Sure, you'll have to compensate them a little bit extra to cover interest for the roll-out period but "no cure, no pay" tends to get things done.

        • They probably need the money to do the job. But they should have a tiered roll-out plan, and they should get the money in portions as the roll-out proceeds, not all at once. Maybe it is already planned that way, I don't know. Did not RTFA, am not new here

      • by pspahn ( 1175617 )
        I don't know. They've been laying fiber around Denver for a little while now. Seems plausible they are upgrading the city and then they can roll out a bunch of services to all the northern counties (where the oil money has been drying up).

        Plausible, I suppose, until you consider they are who they are. Maybe CenturyLink will be different than the rest, we'll see.

    • by nomadic ( 141991 )
      "they must lease it out at reasonable rates." Why? The government isn't mandated to charge reasonable rates for services.
      • "they must lease it out at reasonable rates." Why? The government isn't mandated to charge reasonable rates for services.

        The government is only permitted to pass laws for certain reasons, all of them are promoting welfare and serving the public interest, none of them are making a profit.

  • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Sunday August 30, 2015 @07:29PM (#50423297)
    Just outside town,in areas supposed to get 5/ .5 you are lucky to get .5/.02. Only other choice is satellite. Fortunately I am in town and get comcrap. Ting is building gig fiber in town, but I am just outside first year plans. Sigh.

    Century link will collect fed funds for shit service that is up to stated speeds.

  • by dirk ( 87083 ) <dirk@one.net> on Sunday August 30, 2015 @07:39PM (#50423341) Homepage

    Instead of giving Century Link 3 billion dollars to build the infrastructure and then have a monopoly where they can overcharge the customer, let's take that 3 billion and have the government build the infrastructure. Then we let any company who want so use it do so for a small fee. Then not only do we have infrastructure, but we also have competition and at least a small income from the lines, which is better for everyone.

    • Sadly out of mod points... this deserves to be modded up.

    • The state protected monopoly is a part of the cost. So they get $3B to install it then $50-$100/mo from hundreds of thousands of houses for decades. It may cost them more than $3B to install it.

      • State-protected monopoly? Please, say it ain't so.

        If there has to be a monopoly, it should be state-regulated, not protected. Like utilities (water, gas, electric, etc.)

    • Why do you hate our economy? Ask yourself this: Which will increase the GDP more:
      1) A few broadband connections whose total monthly price is $BIGNUM
      2) A lot more broadband connections but at a lower total cost due to competition

      Clearly if you want to maximize a mostly worthless financial measurement, you want few products at outrageous prices.

    • by Salgat ( 1098063 )
      It's an interesting idea and I'm curious how other utilities are handled, especially if in this way. I can think of roads off the top of my head, but what other utility lines are built directly by the government on a large scale?
  • I have fiber on the pole next to the house. Haven't meaured it, but going off a rough eye... 30 feet away from the house. When they were working on the line, I walked up to the Verizon lineman and asked him if it was fiber optic. He acknowledged it, then stated he wouldn't be able to tell me what it was for. GE has two facilities nearby, as well as Environmental One and SI's headquarters.

    VZ still won't gives us FiOS here. I'm not bitter, really I'm not.

  • I assure you some company would have agreed to do the build out with full fiber for much less.

    Here someone might say "but century link has the franchise last mile contract in that area"... And to those people, I say the very notion of such franchises is why we have such shitty broadband in the first place. You give companies monopolies and shockingly they over charge and under serve. Anyone surprised by that is too ignorant to be involved in civic planning.

    • But in reality what would have happened is some new company wins the bid, fails to deliver after the 6 years and files for bankruptcy. Somehow the $3 billion has all gone missing. That's the one thing a big corp like CentryLink has going for it, they have a lot more than this contract to lose if they take the money and run.

      • Who says you need to give the whole thing to one company? That's silly.

        Break it down into bits that smaller outfits can reasonably build out in a reasonable amount of time. You could break it down into 1 square mile zones. 10,000 square miles? 10,000 contracts. If the federal government can't handle issuing 10,000 contracts then they're more incompetent than most people realize.

        Then put the smaller contracts up for general bid where they agree to build everything to a uniform interchangeable spec. Again, an

      • That's the one thing a big corp like CentryLink has going for it, they have a lot more than this contract to lose if they take the money and run.

        What? No they don't. We already paid billions for last mile internet which we didn't get, and nobody got in trouble.

  • by nmb3000 ( 741169 ) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Sunday August 30, 2015 @09:21PM (#50423717) Journal

    Looks like Quest^W Qwest^W CenturyLink is just going for Part Two of the original hit production: Broadband [newnetworks.com] Subsidy [pbs.org] Scam [huffingtonpost.com].

    But don't worry if you're enjoying the show so far -- I have no doubt there will be a Part Three in 10 years or so.

  • these subsidies require that the deployed services be able to provide speeds of at least 10 Mbps down.

    And what's the monthly data limit?

  • Wait - why are they allowing them to offer at least 10 Mbps when Broadband is now 25? Why not... ya know... force them to at least offer ...uhh 25!!!?????
  • Somebody esplain to me why the FCC doesn't mandate symmetric broadband speeds. I'd rather have that then gigabit.

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