CWA says Lumen (CenturyLink) is making the digital divide worse

Communications Workers of America in partnership with National Digital Inclusion Alliance have released a new report (Lumen’s Digital Disparity: Underinvestment in Infrastructure Discriminates Against Lower-Income, Rural, and Native American Customers) that does not paint a rosy picture of Lumen (CenturyLink) or for their customers. Here’s the executive summary…

Lumen Technologies (formerly known as CenturyLink) is making the digital divide worse and failing its customers and workers by not investing adequately in the essential fiber optic buildout that is the standard for broadband networks worldwide. An analysis of Lumen’s network in states where the company has more than 100,000 households in its service area, interviews with Lumen technicians, and reports by customers in Lumen’s service area show that its service in large parts of its footprint is below the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband definition of 25/3 Mbps and demonstrates Lumen’s failure to build fiber to much of its service area.

  • Thirty-nine percent of households in Lumen’s footprint do not have access to speeds that meet the FCC’s definition of broadband.
  • This underinvestment is especially devastating for rural communities, which make up more than half (57%) of the counties in the Lumen footprint and struggle with access to essential broadband services.
  • The median income for households with fiber available is 12 percent higher than in areas with DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service only. The median income of households with access to fiber is $62,649, while the median income of households with only access to DSL is $56,123.
  • The company targets wealthy areas – 42 percent of households with access to fiber are in census blocks with median incomes above $75,000 – while leaving behind lower income areas, with only 7 percent of Lumen’s fiber network in census blocks with median incomes below $35,000.
  • In counties with higher populations of Native Americans (more than 25% of households) only about 5.2 percent have access to fiber-to-the-home service and 50 percent only have DSL access. This analysis uses data submitted by Lumen to the FCC as part of its mandatory semi-annual Form 477 reports. Due to data collection issues the FCC has only recently addressed, Form 477 data show an overly optimistic representation of Lumen’s network.2 For example, the Form 477 data show over 8 million households in the Lumen footprint have fiber-to-the-home broadband service available to them, while Lumen’s first quarter 2021 earnings report indicates the company only has 2.5 million “fiber-enabled” households. The disparity in Lumen’s network deployment may be significantly worse than reported to the FCC.

And notes about their service in Minnesota…

Minnesota

% of Lumen network without fiber access: 46%

% of Lumen network that does not meet FCC broadband standard: 35%

% of rural households that do not meet FCC broadband standard: 54%

Average income of fiber-enabled households: $75,774

Average income of households with only DSL: $56,538

That certainly colors the news that Lumen has sold much of their business in 20 states, not including Minnesota.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, Research, Vendors by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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