Is CenturyLink doing fiber-to-the-home or fiber-to-the-press release?

Before I could publish this, Chris Mitchell at MuniNetworks.org did a much more in-depth version of what I wrote here. I highly recommend reading his article for the nitty gritty details. Unsurprisingly, we both reached the same conclusion.

When Google announced they would be building a gigabit network in Austin, AT&T wasted no time trying to jump on that bandwagon for damage control. Of course, nobody believed it. How could a company who has shown no interest in network investment suddenly decide that they might want to get on that? I find myself in the same position with CenturyLink’s announcement of an FTTH testbed in Omaha. Moreso, they’re not even equipped to do it.

Bear in mind that this is going to be a very small deployment, just 48,000 homes. It’s focused on an area where CenturyLink provides TV service, a product they haven’t even put into trial in most markets after shutting it down and starting it back up again. This makes some sense as most fiber networks need multiple product offerings to make the network achieve the desired revenue goals. That also means that areas without TV trials are probably not likely to see the service anytime soon.

Then there’s the matter of money. CenturyLink is a cash-poor, debt-heavy behemoth that’s been shedding voice customers to cell carriers and broadband customers to anything that isn’t them. When was the last time they did a new ADSL2+ footprint anywhere in Utah? It’s been several years now with not a red cent of network improvement. Omaha is a testbed not because they don’t sorely need to upgrade their entire network, but because that’s likely all the money they can afford to spend. Without a highly profitable wireless business or a lead against their cable competitors, it doesn’t look like the picture is going to improve anytime soon either. Investors don’t seem to think so.

I’m sure CenturyLink will build out their “testbed” in Omaha. Heck, they’ll probably even expand it to the surrounding suburbs. But will they pick up enough steam to push it nationwide? I wouldn’t put money on it.

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