CenturyLink’s supplemental CAF-II funding request challenged by Charter, Comcast

CenturyLink’s request to modify its CAF-II incremental broadband deployment plans was met with protest from Charter Communications and Comcast, who claim the telco wants funds to build out 10/1 Mbps broadband in areas they already serve.

Initially, the service provider accepted $500 million in the second phase of the FCC's Connect America Fund (CAF-II), enabling it deliver broadband services to about 1.2 million rural households and businesses in 33 states over the next six years.

RELATED: Frontier’s supplemental CAF-II funding request faces protests from Comcast, Charter

In September, CenturyLink submitted a list of 9,703 census blocks (PDF) to the FCC that it had not initially identified with its CAF-II election where it now intends to serve locations using Phase I incremental support.

According to the rules set by the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau, any service provider who wants subsidies to provide broadband services must complete the required certifications, and the “location in question must be eligible at the time."

Moreover, other service providers are given 45 days to indicate that they already serve the identified blocks, and CenturyLink must certify that to the best of its knowledge, the locations it plans to serve are in fact unserved before it may commence construction.

Charter Communications, which expanded its network footprint following its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Communications, said in its response filing (PDF) that it already offers 3 Mbps/768 Kbps speeds in 356 of the census blocks newly designated by CenturyLink.

Charter said in its filing that it “believes that the census blocks in Exhibit A are already served by an unsubsidized competitor, and thus not eligible for Phase I support.”

Likewise, Comcast is challenging 338 census blocks that CenturyLink seeks funding to serve as part of the CAF-II program. In a separate filing, the cable MSO said it currently provides Internet service at speeds exceeding 3 Mbps/768 Kbps as of June 2016 in these census blocks.

“Since CenturyLink now has knowledge of Comcast’s FCC Form 477 filing, CenturyLink simply cannot certify that 'to the best of [its] knowledge, the locations are, in fact, unserved by fixed Internet access' with the requisite speeds,” Comcast said in its response filing (PDF). “To the contrary, Comcast has demonstrated through its FCC Form 477 submission that these areas are served by an unsubsidized competitor and therefore should not be eligible for CAF Phase I (Round 2) funding.”

CenturyLink isn’t the only ILEC facing a challenge from Charter and Comcast. Fellow ILEC Frontier Communications’ supplemental CAF-II request is being similar issue in the markets it serves.  

Charter claims it already offers internet speeds that exceed 3 Mbps/768 Kbps in 126 of the census blocks designated by Frontier, while Comcast says it provides similar service 19 of the census blocks Frontier had identified.