The sale of CenturyLink could strengthen high-speed internet in parts of downtown Pa.





According to the companies and the county, an agreement with the owner of CenturyLink to sell its local telephone services in 20 states could lead to improvements to infrastructure and high-speed fiber-optic Internet in Perry County over the years. next five years.

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

She received numerous comments last week about the county’s decision to slow its broadband Internet expansion. Some of them were very critical of the decision. The county announced in November that it would slow down the project to consider all options before spending millions of dollars. Watson defended the move as prudent.

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

Perry County has about $ 9 million in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the federal COVID-19 recovery law passed by Congress earlier this year, to improve various infrastructure, including water , sewage and broadband facilities in the county. More money may be available soon thanks to the infrastructure bill passed by Congress.

Watson also said a recent deal for a company to buy out the local telephone business of Lumen Technologies, the parent company of CenturyLink, could be aligned with the county project.

In August, Apollo Global Management struck a deal with Lumen to buy its historic local service operator (ILEC) business in 20 states, including Pennsylvania, for $ 7.5 billion, according to the companies. The agreement is expected to be finalized in the second half of 2022.

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

Lumen officials did not mention the deal when the newspaper previously contacted them to discuss high-speed internet, the loopholes, and the county’s plan.

However, Watson said she would contact the company regarding these issues and the potential impacts on the expansion of broadband in Perry County.

Apollo, a diverse management group with companies in various industries, is working on a fiber-optic broadband expansion called Brightspeed, according to its announcements. Brightspeed plans to invest $ 2 billion in fiber optic internet in rural areas of these 20 states over the next five years, he said on November 17. These will be upgrades to the ILEC business that companies buy from Lumen. Brightspeed specifically mentions Pennsylvania in its ad.

One of the driving forces behind North Carolina-based Brightspeed is a core of executives who have experience deploying Verizon’s Fios fiber optic network. Verizon operates this network in parts of central Pennsylvania.

Brightspeed COO 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 will focus on deploying fiber optic in homes and businesses, but we will also be looking at the capabilities of existing facilities,” Maguire wrote in an email answering questions. from Journal.

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

Perry County has not signed definitive agreements with companies to build high-speed Internet networks. Its Request for Proposals (RFP) earlier this year garnered three shots from Upward Broadband, Zito Media and Center WISP.

The county rejected Center WISP, a state college wireless service provider, because its proposal did not meet the requirements of the tender. The county agreed to negotiate with Zito and Upward, but did not reach final agreements or reject all of the proposals. He can do it and relaunch the project.

Upward is a Lancaster wireless broadband provider that uses point-to-point radio wave transmission to bring high-speed Internet to homes and businesses. It is a cheaper technology to build but can be prone to disruption and unavailable depending on geography.

Zito of Coudersport acquired two companies that previously operated in Perry County – Nittany Media and Kuhn Communications – to provide cable Internet, digital TV and telephone services. It offers fiber optic internet to underserved parts of the county.

However, some in New Bloomfield and other parts of Perry County have complained that Zito has frequent outages and has not fixed problems with the systems he acquired. The county was aware of these issues and was in discussions with businesses as part of its broadband talks.

Wayne Lesher, the owner of a construction company in New Bloomfield, told the Commissioners meeting that he is constantly dealing with internet issues. He proposed that the county convene a broadband advisory committee. Residents and business people could help guide the process and provide feedback on past issues to avoid them in the future.

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




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