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CenturyLink Concedes Publicly-Owned Broadband Networks Offer Better Service Than They Do

CenturyLinkA CenturyLink official made a remarkable concession in the state of Minnesota last week when he admitted the state’s community-owned broadband networks are better equipped to deliver 21st century broadband speeds that CenturyLink simply cannot provide.

Duane Ring, midwest region president for CenturyLink publicly told an audience at a Minnesota High Tech Association-sponsored discussion in Minneapolis that community-owned networks don’t have to meet shareholder demands for return on investment and other corporate metrics that have left CenturyLink broadband customers with far lower speeds than municipal broadband customers. Minnesota Public Radio was on hand:

Noting that CenturyLink wants every customer it can find, Ring pointed out that the company nonetheless needs a return on investment that satisfies shareholders and meets the demands of larger commitments and fiduciary responsibilities.

The small phone companies that have laid high-speed fiber networks, some of whom are cooperatives whose customers are the owners “can make decisions that maybe the economic return is 25 years,” Ring said. “They can do that.”

CenturyLink admits they offer better speeds over a superior network.

CenturyLink concedes Paul Bunyan offers better speeds over a superior network.

Only 62 percent of Minnesotans can today purchase what qualifies as broadband service. Those lucky enough to be served by public providers like Paul Bunyan in the Bemidji area and Farmers Mutual Telephone in western Minnesota benefit from some of the fastest broadband speeds in the state. That is because those cooperatives and public ventures laid fiber optic cables connected to individual homes. Those in rural Minnesota served by CenturyLink or Frontier get much less from slow speed, copper-based DSL, if they can get broadband at all.

CenturyLink has proven itself an obstacle for community broadband, opposing the construction of improved networks in areas they already service, condemning rural customers to substandard broadband speeds indefinitely. While the company says it is not opposed to public-private partnerships, any attempt to bypass them will result in a hornet’s nest of legal protests and blocking actions.

While community-owned networks struggle for financing and approval in a hostile atmosphere created by incumbent providers, the government is handing out money to companies like CenturyLink to get them to extend their slow speed DSL network. CenturyLink is spending $11 million in Connect America funds in Minnesota alone.

In other areas, residents have no interest in waiting around for single digit DSL speeds. In Lac qui Parle County in western Minnesota, local officials have joined Farmers Mutual Telephone to build a fiber network.

CenturyLink’s admission proves it answers first to shareholders, much later to customers.

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