MONROE, La. –CenturyLink’s decision to partner with the Federal Communications Commission on broadband development across Louisiana and the United States is “the best news I’ve heard in months,” said Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.
The Monroe-based company announced today that it has accepted $505 million in annual, ongoing support from the FCC’s “Connect America Fund” to develop high-speed Internet service for more than 2 million CenturyLink customers nationwide.
“For Louisiana the company will gain nearly $10 million to provide almost 25,000 rural and suburban households with fast Internet service,” Campbell said.
“That money will go a long way toward meeting the continuing demand for broadband in areas of Louisiana where it is not readily available.”
Campbell, D-Bossier City, has championed broadband development in Louisiana since joining the Public Service Commission in 2003. He supported the state’s acceptance of an $80-million federal grant for broadband development in 2010, only to see the Jindal Administration lose the grant over political differences with the federal government.
Just this week Campbell asked LPSC staff to determine if the commission’s State Universal Service Fund can be used to encourage development of Internet service in rural and suburban areas.
Last month he called upon President Obama to expand the federal “ConnectHome” pilot program for broadband in public housing to include Monroe as a test city along with Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
“Louisiana has vast areas unserved by high-speed Internet, particularly in North Louisiana,” he said. “Many of these areas have high rates of poverty and lack of economic opportunity.
“If we are going to close these digital divides and bring the benefits of broadband to our schools, businesses, health-care facilities and residents, we need to seek out every possible means of assistance.”
The FCC said CenturyLink’s acceptance of more than half a billion dollars in Connect America funding was the largest amount of money accepted by any company to date.
“I commend CenturyLink for taking this step with the FCC, and I encourage other communications companies to do likewise,” Campbell said.
According to the FCC, telecom companies receiving Connect America Fund support must build out broadband to 40 percent of funded locations by the end of 2017, 60 percent by the end of 2018, 80 percent by the end of 2019, and 100 percent by the end of 2020.