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CenturyLink Urges Congress to Update Communications Act, Reform Universal Service Fund

CenturyLink submitted comments today commending the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee for its efforts to revisit and revise the Communications Act in light of the significant technological and marketplace changes that have occurred since the law was last updated in 1996. Given these rapid and fundamental market changes, the current law no longer effectively promotes universal access to critical communications services.

We believe that universal service should continue to be a core objective of this country’s communications policy and that the primary goal of the Universal Service Fund (USF) should be to ensure the availability of sufficient communications, including voice and broadband Internet services, throughout this country.

To that end, CenturyLink supports FCC action to reform its existing high-cost support programs through the development of phase II of the Connect America Fund (CAF). We joined other telecommunications providers in recommending several specific changes to the program that will maximize its effectiveness. Notably, more than 100 federal, state and local legislators and executive officials have written to the FCC in support of giving providers the flexibility they need to deploy high-speed broadband connections to more unserved communities.

Making certain that USF can meet this goal while minimizing the burden on consumers and businesses is vital to achieving ubiquitous broadband availability across the country. However, the USF contribution rules have simply not kept pace with the vast technological changes. CenturyLink believes the USF contribution rules need to be revamped to broaden the contribution base, simplify the contribution methodology and ensure that similar services are subject to the same contribution obligations, regardless of provider.

Consumers in urban areas can usually choose from a variety of service providers because of lower network costs due to the larger number of residents. Consumers in more sparsely populated areas do not enjoy the same choices thanks to the higher costs to serve rural locations, but still need comparable services at comparable prices, which are only available with support from the USF high-cost program. However, USF support should not be used to artificially create competition in high-cost rural areas where it wouldn’t otherwise exist.

CenturyLink recognizes that federal support alone is unlikely to accomplish the national goal of universal service. State partnerships and funding are critical to meeting universal access to essential communication services in any given state.

In addition, USF support is supposed to be specific, predictable and sufficient. As the USF program is updated, mechanisms are needed to allow providers to make the most effective use of USF support.  By knowing the amount and terms of the support available for locations as well as the service obligations associated with that support, providers can make the best business decisions about accepting and using that support to help America achieve its goal of universal access to crucial communications services for everyone.

CenturyLink Applauds STAVRA As A Step In The Right Direction

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Member John Thune (R-S.D.), is preparing to update the expiring law that governs satellite television transmissions. The two lawmakers recently introduced the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA), which would overhaul outdated retransmission consent rules that reduce competition in the pay-TV market and hurt consumers.

U.S. Sens. Rockefeller and Thune have also shown tremendous leadership in putting forth an innovative proposal called “local choice” that would end programming blackouts and give consumers more control over which television stations they want to receive. With the debate over comprehensive communications reform on the horizon, we believe proposals like “local choice” are an important marker as Congress tries to update our nation’s telecommunications laws for the first time since 1996.

CenturyLink looks forward to working with members on both sides of the aisle to pass STAVRA in the coming weeks. We support proposals like “local choice”  that move our nation closer to ending the archaic retransmission consent regime while promoting pay-TV competition and protecting consumers.

CenturyLink offers its Internet Protocol TV service known as Prism™ TV to approximately 2 million homes in 12 markets and invests hundreds of millions of dollars in deploying high-speed broadband services to support its digital video product.

CenturyLink Urges Congress To Update Communications Act, Retire Old Interconnection Rules

CenturyLink submitted comments today commending the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee for its work examining interconnection issues as part of the committee’s efforts to modernize our nation’s telecommunications laws.

The outdated Communications Act saddles incumbent local exchange carriers like CenturyLink with burdensome interconnection obligations for traditional voice services that do not reflect today’s telecommunications environment nor apply to our competitors, even though wireline carriers now serve less than one-third of homes passed and traditional telephone services comprise less than 20 percent of all local voice connections.

In contrast, Internet-based and wireless networks have flourished by utilizing commercially-negotiated interconnection arrangements that are largely free of regulation. We are witnessing a fundamental market change as traditional wireline voice services rapidly give way to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.

Given these trends, carrier-specific interconnection obligations need to be retired at the same time as the obsolete circuit-switched networks on which they are based.

As voice services move to IP-based networks, all providers have market incentives to negotiate commercial agreements that allow their customers to make calls to and receive calls from anyone, regardless of the technology used.

We believe that the fundamental market and technological changes since the last Communications Act update in 1996—including the transformation of voice from a standalone service to one of many IP-based applications—eliminate the need for carrier-specific or voice-specific interconnection mandates.

Congress can best further our national goals of promoting network investment and innovation by ensuring that all providers are subject to the same interconnection requirements and encouraging regulators to let the market prevail.

CenturyLink Applauds U.S. House Passage of Internet Tax Freedom Act Extension

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation that permanently extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA).

“CenturyLink commends the House of Representatives for passing legislation that protects consumers and keeps Internet access tax free,” said CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) Executive Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations Steve Davis. “Without permanent extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, thousands of state and local jurisdictions could start levying new taxes on Internet access or bandwidth use, which could discourage broadband adoption and limit broadband investment. We look forward to working with the Senate to pass the companion bill and to seeing this important legislation enacted soon.”

ITFA is a temporary tax moratorium that is scheduled to expire Nov. 1, 2014. Legislation that would permanently extend ITFA, H.R.3086 and S.1431, has been introduced by U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Thune (R-S.D.).

For more information, please see the previous blog post on ITFA: CenturyLink Joins Coalition To Prevent Government From Taxing Internet Access.

 

CenturyLink Wins 10-Year NIH Colocation Contract

Company selected again to provide disaster recovery services

CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) recently won a colocation contract from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that could be worth nearly $63 million over the next 10 years. CenturyLink will provide colocation, network connectivity and disaster recovery services to the NIH National Library of Medicine and the NIH Center for Information Technology.

The contract is worth $3.2 million the first year, with nine one-year options that will result in a minimum total contract value of $19.6 million and a maximum total contract value of $62.7 million. The new agreement follows a previous 10-year contract for these services that was also awarded to CenturyLink.

CenturyLink’s data center solution provides a secure environment that assures the high confidentiality, availability and integrity of NIH information, achieves a FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) moderate rating and has been built to Tier III data center reliability standards.

By supplying colocation and data backup services over its carrier-class network, CenturyLink is able to provide NIH with the security and reliability it needs to carry out its mission as one of the world’s top medical research centers.

The National Library of Medicine, located on the NIH campus, is the world’s largest medical library. Its collection offers information and research services in all areas of biomedicine and health care. It also coordinates a 6,000-member National Network of Libraries of Medicine that provides access to health information in communities across the U.S.

The NIH Center for Information Technology manages the agency’s IT resources, which include operating the NIH computer center and providing data processing and technical services to more than 40,000 users in NIH, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and other government agencies.

“CenturyLink is proud to be selected again to provide the NIH and the National Library of Medicine with secure, reliable colocation and disaster recovery services that will help the agency continue to supply important medical information and research services to thousands of communities and registered users,” said Lisa Bruch, CenturyLink Government acting senior vice president and general manager.

CenturyLink is ranked No. 42 on Washington Technology’s 2014 Top 100 list of federal government IT contractors.

CenturyLink Wins Marine Corps Community Services Headquarters Contract

Company to provide virtual private network services worth $3.5 million

CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) recently won a contract sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) headquarters in Quantico, Va., to design, procure, configure and upgrade all equipment necessary to provide MCCS with a virtual private network. The one-year contract, which includes four one-year options, is valued at up to $3.5 million over the next five years.

In addition to managed virtual private network (VPN) services, CenturyLink will provide Internet and point-to-point circuits that will connect 37 Marine Corps locations across the continental U.S. CenturyLink’s VPN will provide MCCS with a reliable, secure, cost effective, managed service solution that exceeds stringent technical performance standards.

The network will support MCCS in its mission to provide quality-of-life services and programs to members of the Marines Corps and their families. The MCCS system generates more than $1 billion in annual sales from a wide variety of business operations that are used to help fund non-revenue generating MCCS programs.

“CenturyLink is proud to win this contract to provide a first-class private data network that will help Marine Corps Community Services offer important wellness and recreation services to Marines and their families,” said Diana Gowen, CenturyLink Government senior vice president and general manager.

CenturyLink also recently won a contract to provide voice, data network and telecommunications infrastructure services to the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico and the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, D.C., that could be worth up to $8.5 million over the next two years. That contract followed two previous procurements for these services that were also awarded to CenturyLink, marking more than a dozen years of successful company support of and collaboration with the Marines at Quantico.

CenturyLink is ranked No. 48 on Washington Technology’s 2013 Top 100 list of federal government IT contractors.

CenturyLink Internet Basics and the Community

Senior adults overcome Internet barriers through public-private partnerships, local training and affordable access

For decades, CenturyLink has worked hard to connect people from all walks of life in both rural and urban areas with reliable communications services that help them stay in touch with friends, family and the world in which they live. During the month of May, as America celebrates Older Americans Month, we reflect on the work that we’ve been doing to get older Americans throughout our service areas online.

There are currently about 43.1 million Americans (roughly 13.7% of the total U.S. population) who are 65 years old or older, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau report. Even though Americans in that age group saw the biggest change in Internet use among any age category over the last 11 years (up 32 percent since 2002), a third of them say they don’t personally use the Internet. New research conducted by Michigan State University has found that Internet use among the elderly can reduce the chances of depression by more than 30 percent. The study found that Internet use among older Americans helps in reducing the symptoms of depression brought on by feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Broadband adoption and use among older Americans is expected to increase in the coming years. One reason is that many resources and agencies that older Americans rely on are increasingly migrating into Internet-based services. This trend is driving more and more older Americans to go online for health information, for their banking needs, to buy goods and services, and to stay in contact with family and friends.

To help improve older Americans’ computer literacy, CenturyLink held more than 100 computer training sessions led by its local employees throughout many of our service areas over a two-year period under the Internet Basics program. CenturyLink’s Internet Basics program offers qualifying low-income consumers the opportunity to get discounted Internet service as well as a Netbook computer at a reduced price and free basic computer training classes for all in select service areas.

The chart below indicates that 58 percent of those who participated in the CenturyLink Internet Basics training sessions were 55 years old or older. Many participants were also first-time computer users.

CenturyLink Internet Basics Training Session Attendance

CIB Chart for Older Americans Blog Post 2014

Since launching the Internet Basics program in fall 2011, CenturyLink has collaborated with local communities to reach many individuals and families who need Internet access. One key lesson learned is that interest in the Internet and computer training is not limited to English-speaking senior citizens. CenturyLink employees in Washington state used their language skills to translate computer training materials into different languages and held several special training sessions for older, non-English speaking residents.

Another public-private partnership that produced great results was a special Internet Basics training session held last year in Ville Platte, La., a rural community in central Louisiana. The event included federal, state and local elected officials who spoke about the importance of a high-speed Internet connection for personal and business growth. More than 100 older Americans from the surrounding area attended that session and learned about the many benefits of going online. Many of the participants  had never used a computer before and were amazed at the information available through the Internet as well as how easy it was to use the technology.

CenturyLink’s Internet Basics program is still being offered throughout its service areas to qualifying individuals and families. A number of local community organizations representing libraries, schools, senior centers, councils on aging, public housing authorities, tribal councils, the United Way and others have been strong supporters of the program. We thank these partner organizations for their support and hope we can continue to work together to help close the broadband education and adoption gap that separates so many Americans, especially  older Americans.

CenturyLink: Net Neutrality Rules Must Not Harm Consumers

The Federal Communications Commission today launched a rulemaking seeking public comment on new net neutrality rules.

“CenturyLink’s network is built so customers can access the Internet whenever, wherever and however they choose,” said CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) Executive Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations Steve Davis. “We strongly support a vibrant and open Internet. We believe that above all else, any regulation of the Internet must help, not harm consumers. This means both assuring openness, as well as assuring that the Internet continues to grow to meet rapidly escalating customer demand. Customers who want higher speeds or better performance levels should be allowed to pay for them, but regulations should not require those who don’t want higher speeds or increased performance levels to pay the same rates as those who do.”

 

Public-Private Partnerships Help America Combat Cyberthreats

CenturyLink executive testifies before U.S. Senate subcommittee

Partnerships between the public and private sectors are one of the best ways government and industry can work together to protect America’s cybersecurity, CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) Vice President and Chief Security Officer David Mahon told the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security today.

At a hearing entitled, “Investing in Cybersecurity: Understanding Risks and Building Capabilities for the Future,” Mahon noted that CenturyLink works closely with the federal government on industry-wide solutions to counter cyberthreats. As a leading provider of cybersecurity services to the government, CenturyLink recommends further improving the quality of public-private information sharing and continually refining these relationships to get actionable, tailored cyberthreat information to the targeted sectors as soon as possible.

CenturyLink is one of only two fully approved commercial services provider for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Enhanced Cybersecurity Services (ECS) program that helps government-approved critical infrastructure entities, including state and local governments, protect their IT systems from unauthorized access, exploitation or data exfiltration. The company also provides similar cyber protections to federal government agencies via the DHS Einstein 3 Accelerated (E3A) program. Both programs leverage classified cyberthreat information to protect government networks and critical infrastructure operators.

Under the direction of DHS, Internet service providers like CenturyLink administer intrusion prevention capabilities, managed security services and threat-based protections onto network traffic entering and leaving participating federal civilian agency networks through the E3A program, and provide similar services to critical infrastructure operators, including state and local governments, through the ECS program.

“We believe the fiscal year 2015 federal budget offers significant opportunities to strengthen our nation’s cyber defenses,” Mahon told the Senate subcommittee. “We urge Congress to provide additional funding for cash-strapped state and local governments to implement ECS and for expanding the capabilities of E3A to provide even more robust protections to federal government networks.”

“We also urge Congress and DHS to place a renewed emphasis on workforce development in the cyber arena and to continue to invest in research and development for new cybersecurity technologies,” Mahon said.

 

CenturyLink Concerned FCC’s Connect America Fund Changes Hurt Rural Americans

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today proposed significant changes to the Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II program being developed under the Universal Service Fund Transformation Order.

“CenturyLink has been providing communications services to rural America for more than 80 years, often in places that are very hard to serve. We understand the unique challenges and opportunities that come with serving high-cost rural areas and want to make sure rural Americans get the broadband service they need and deserve,” said CenturyLink, Inc. (NYSE: CTL) Executive Vice President for Public Policy and Government Relations Steve Davis.

“The Connect America Fund program is perhaps the best hope for hundreds of thousands of Americans with no high-speed Internet service today. We agree that faster Internet speeds are where much of the focus must be in terms of meeting the rapidly evolving needs of our customers. Online opportunities are changing the way Americans look at education, commerce and entertainment. We fervently believe that rural Americans have a right to join in this evolution.”

“Accordingly, we believe that the Connect America Fund must first connect America by ensuring that all consumers have access to broadband service. Higher speeds will require commensurate changes in other parts of the program. We are concerned that reverse auctions, extended challenge processes, and funding unlicensed and untested technologies will not help rural Americans get the benefits and opportunities that come with high-speed Internet,” Davis said.