The CAF II program awarded funding to the nation’s larger carriers to bring broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas within their local service territories. Frontier accepted $283 million in funding annually and CenturyLink accepted $514 million annually.
Funding recipients were given six years to complete buildouts to a specific number of locations and were given interim deadlines to complete deployment to a specific percentage of locations.
In a letter to the FCC, CenturyLink said it met or exceeded the program’s December 31, 2020 milestone in 10 states but may not have met the 100% milestone in 23 states. Frontier told the FCC that it met the year-end 2020 milestone in eight states but may not have reached it in 17 other states.
The companies must report more definitive deployment data by March 1.
Last year at this time, Frontier said it had met the CAF II deployment milestones for year-end 2019 in 16 states but might not have met the target in 13 others. CenturyLink said it had met milestones in 10 states but might miss the target in 23 others.
Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2020, but attributed this year’s deployment delays to the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than the bankruptcy.
Neither company reports meeting their goals in Minnesota…
According to CenturyLink, states for which the company may not have met its 2020 CAF II deployment target include Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
States for which Frontier may not have met its 2020 CAF II deployment target include Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Frontier said it expects to meet its final CAF II deployment milestone by June 30 in all outstanding states except Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, where the expected completion date is September 30.
The frustration is that this leaves many people without broadband – again. The goal is to build to 25/3 (even lower in some areas) and they haven’t done that. To put that in perspective, it does not get them closer to the MN State speed goal of 100/20 by 2026. In Minnesota we are used to the State MN border to border broadband grant rules where project must build networks that are scalable to 100/100. That is not the case with these networks and getting to 25/3 does not mean getting to 100/20 will be easier.
Also there is the concern for customers that the promise or threat of building has kept competitors out of their market. The promise of a CAF II network has made it more difficult for the communities to get funding from other sources. CAF II funding focused on the providers only – communities didn’t not sign up or on to the program.