CenturyLink Inc. earlier this summer asked the Federal Communications Commission for a waiver that would let the telecommunications carrier access another $32.6 million in broadband subsidies in underserved areas from the recently created "Connect America Fund."
The problem is that certain wireless Internet service providers already offer broadband services in the areas where CenturyLink is seeking subsidies.
So it shouldn't surprise you that WISPA (Wireless Internet Service Providers Association), an organization that represents wireless ISPs, strongly opposes CenturyLink's petition.
"Why should our 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,' said Rick Harnish, executive director of WISPA, in an email to us. "That would be similar to loaning billions to an Edsel factory to produce more inferior cars."
Most wireless ISPs, Harnish explained, don't receive subsidies.
CenturyLink cites a number of reasons why it should receive funding. For instance, the company claims certain wireless ISPs charge higher rates than wireline broadband providers, endure line-of-sight restrictions that prevent them from providing service at all to certain locations within their coverage areas and impose far more stringent data caps than wireline providers. CenturyLink also claims the WISPs face capacity constraints that limit the use of spectrum at the necessary speeds to run bandwidth-hungry apps.
Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink is asking for a waiver that would allow it to spend broadband subsidies in communities only served by a wireless ISP and under two specific conditions: Either the community lies within a state that has not independently verified coverage of the wireless ISP shown in the so-called National Broadband Map and objective data shows the company could not plausibly serve those areas; or the wireless ISP imposes unusually high retail prices or unusually rigid data caps.
Created by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, in collaboration with the FCC, the National Broadband Map shows broadband coverage in neighborhoods across the nation.
"The waiver application we filed ... would allow CenturyLink to spend tens of millions of dollars to bring more broadband services to more rural and high-cost customers who do not have reasonable access to broadband service today," CenturyLink spokeswoman Meg Andrews told us in an email. "These funds would be provided by the FCC’s Connect America Fund, as well as additional investment dollars would be provided by CenturyLink. If the waiver application is approved, CenturyLink will build needed broadband services to thousands of homes in Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and several other states."