CenturyLink Sale Could Boost Broadband Internet

A deal for CenturyLink’s owner to sell its local phone services in 20 states, the companies and the county said could lead to improvements to infrastructure and high-speed fiber Internet in Perry County over the next five years.

County Commissioner Brenda Watson mentioned the deal on Dec. 6 while discussing the county’s broadband internet project.

She received a lot of feedback over the past week about the county’s decision to delay broadband internet expansion. Some of them were very critical of the decision. The county announced in November that it would delay the project to consider all options before spending millions of dollars. Watson defended that move as cautious.

“This money coming to us is a gift,” Watson said. “If we don’t do our due diligence, it’s a shame.”

Perry County has approximately $9 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the federal COVID-19 recovery law passed by Congress earlier this year, to rebuild several infrastructures, including water, wastewater and broadband facilities in the county. improve. More money could soon become available through the infrastructure bill passed by Congress.

Watson also said a recent deal for a company to buy the local phone business of Lumen Technologies, CenturyLink’s parent company, could tie in with the provincial project.

In August, Apollo Global Management reached a deal with Lumen to acquire its established Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) operations in 20 states, including Pennsylvania, for $7.5 billion, the companies said. The deal is to be completed in the second half of 2022.

ILECs are the remnants of the old telephone companies in much of the United States, including CenturyLink in Perry County. In many parts of rural America, ILECs still operate older telephone line infrastructure and DSL Internet service over it. That has been surpassed in speed and efficiency by newer technologies such as cable, fiber optic lines and 5G wireless technologies.

Lumen representatives did not mention this deal when the newspaper reached out to them earlier to discuss broadband internet, shortcomings and the province’s project.

However, Watson said she would contact the company about these issues and potential implications for the broadband expansion in Perry County.

Apollo, a diversified management group that owns companies in a variety of industries, is working on a fiber broadband expansion called Brightspeed, according to the announcements. Brightspeed plans to invest $2 billion in fiber internet in rural areas of those 20 states over the next five years, it said on Nov. 17. These are expected to be upgrades to the ILEC business that Lumen’s businesses are buying. Brightspeed specifically mentions Pennsylvania in its announcement.

Part of what drives North Carolina-based Brightspeed is a core group of executives experienced in deploying Verizon’s fiber network Fios. Verizon operates that network in parts of central Pennsylvania.

Brightspeed Chief Operating Officer Thomas Maguire said it was too early to go into details, as the deal still requires regulatory approval from state and federal agencies.

“I think it’s safe to say that we’ll focus on deploying fiber to homes and businesses, but we’ll also look at the capabilities of existing facilities,” Maguire wrote in an email in response to questions. of the newspaper.

If Brightspeed upgrades the CenturyLink network in Perry County, that could change the project, the county decides to fund with its money.

Perry County has not signed any definitive agreements with companies to build high-speed Internet networks. The request for proposals (RFP) earlier this year spawned three plans from Upward Broadband, Zito Media and Center WISP.

The county rejected Center WISP, a State College wireless provider, because its proposal did not meet RFP requirements. The province agreed to negotiate with Zito and Upward, but has not reached final agreements or rejected all proposals. It can do that and relist the project.

Upward is a wireless broadband provider from Lancaster that uses point-to-point radio wave transmission to bring high-speed Internet to homes and businesses. It is a less expensive technology to build but may be subject to interruptions and unavailable based on geography.

Zito of Coudersport acquired two companies that previously had businesses in Perry County — Nittany Media and Kuhn Communications — to provide cable Internet, digital TV and telephone services. It proposes fiber internet to the underprivileged parts of the province.

However, some in New Bloomfield and other parts of Perry County have complained that Zito is regularly interrupted and failed to resolve issues with the acquired systems. The province was aware of these issues and held talks with companies as part of its broadband talks.

Wayne Lesher, the owner of the construction company in New Bloomfield, said during the commissioners’ meeting that he has been dealing with internet problems all the time. He suggested that the province convene a broadband advisory committee. Residents and entrepreneurs can help guide the process and provide input on past problems to prevent them in the future.

Jim T. Ryan can be reached by email at jtryan@perrycountytimes.com

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