CenturyLink Testifies on Barriers to Broadband Deployment

By Jeb Benedict, Vice President Federal Regulatory Affairs, Regulatory Counsel

At a hearing today entitled “Breaking Down Barriers to Broadband Infrastructure Deployment,” I testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee about ways to streamline the federal construction permitting process and thus accelerate the deployment of broadband to more Americans.  

With our products and services, CenturyLink improves lives, strengthens businesses and connects communities, from Main Street to Wall Street.To implement our vision across our operating territories, we work closely with federal agencies, many of whom we are fortunate to count as our customers.  

Our national network includes 250,000 miles of fiber and more than a million miles of copper cable that connect businesses, government entities and homes in all 50 states.

Because the federal government owns 28 percent of U.S. acreage and given the vastness of CenturyLink’s network, we must rely on rights of way on federal lands to upgrade, expand and operate our broadband facilities.  At most every federal land use agency, it commonly takes far too long to secure permits for installation of new or upgraded facilities on federal lands.These unreasonable delays are out of step in an Internet-driven economy and add to costs and heavily impact the time to deploy and upgrade services. This in turn delays or denies broadband availability to small businesses, government agencies and everyday consumers. Congress should apply much-need pressure to agencies to give priority to broadband applications. 

Most of our new deployments are additions of fiber to existing utility poles or conduit, or we are installing new facilities in previously disturbed areas, like road shoulders and highway medians. The Department of Transportation appropriately streamlines environmental reviews for those applications; Congress should have other federal agencies do the same.

We pay significant fees for rights of way and access to federal lands and facilities. These fees increase the costs of providing broadband services, especially in sparsely populated rural areas and on tribal lands where deploying broadband is economically challenging. Congress should ask agencies to minimize fees for broadband infrastructure.

Many fiber installations need approvals from more than one agency. But agencies typically do not coordinate their reviews, so broadband providers are held hostage to whichever takes the longest.  Congress should encourage interagency coordination to avoid needless costs and delays to broadband investment.

There is broad, bipartisan support for taking steps to promote broadband infrastructure investment.  CenturyLink supports the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2015 recently introduced by committee leaders in the House. Measures like this will help make it easier, faster and more cost-effective to connect more Americans to high-speed broadband. It is an example of what Congress and federal agencies can do to help facilitate broadband deployment and network investment. 

We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, the White House and all federal agencies to help expand and upgrade broadband service, especially for rural America.


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