CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) has gone ahead and accepted $35 million from the FCC Connect America Fund (CAF) as a way to deploy broadband service to 45,000 rural homes, the company said.
The burgeoning IPTV provider said it had been eligible for $90 million in CAF funding but "restrictions on the use of CAF 1 funds made further deployment uneconomic."
The fact that the carrier got any money is a thorn in the side of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), which has complained that CenturyLink was only moving into fields that had already been plowed by WISPs.
"CenturyLink is doing this so they will get subsidies in areas where there is already service—areas where they know there is a market because WISPs built it without federal support," WISPA President Elizabeth Bowles said in a July 11 news release.
The announcement that CenturyLink was going ahead, despite its protests, drew a quick e-mail response from WISPA executive director Rick Harnish to Billing World.
"Why should the government continue to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into infrastructure such as copper telco lines, even when the telco industry leaders have admitted that DSL is dead?" Harnish asked.
CenturyLink's reasoning, as laid out in a news release statement attributed to Steve Davis, executive vice president for public policy and government relations, is that it is "investing millions of dollars of our own money to bring robust broadband service to more customers because we believe these services will bring essential educational and economic opportunities to high-cost, rural areas of the country."
In fact, Davis said, the carrier is "disappointed" that restrictions on the use of funds are forestalling deployment to a greater area. CenturyLink said it has filed a waiver to deploy broadband services to about 60,000 more homes.
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