CenturyLink Cuts Copper in 15 States

Carrier carries on with fiber build as Google scales back and Europe goes G.fast over copper
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MONROE, LA.—Northern Louisiana telecom CenturyLink is continuing to cut copper while regulators chew on its $25 billion purchase of Level 3, internet service provider to giants such as Netflix.

CenturyLink filed several copper retirement notifications that the Federal Communications Commission released on Halloween. In Fort Myers, Fla., the provider said it plans to “retire copper loops and replace them with fiber loops using its fiber-to-the-home overlay architecture as customers migrate to higher speed broadband internet access.”

Four other filings indicate CenturyLink is cutting copper in other communities in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico and Washington.

In these filings1, CenturyLink said only that, “Due to growth in the distribution areas, CenturyLink plans to cut facilities to fiber-fed digital-loop carrier systems.”

It said nothing about the FTTH overlay or the availability of other services after facilities are cut, as it did in this Network Disclosure Announcement from June, which included the assurance: “After the cut to DLC, copper reliant services, such as non-loaded copper loops will not be supported. All other types of unbundled loops will still be available.”

FCC rules adopted in August of 2015 require approval for discontinuation of service related to copper retirement, but require no approval process “for retirement of legacy facilities so long as the change of technology does not discontinue, reduce, or impair the services provided—ensuring that incumbent local exchange carriers can continue to transition to an all-fiber environment.”

The facilities, including the one in Fort Myers, will be cut April 30, 2017.

CenturyLink has been retiring copper lines at least since 2012, according to filings available online. In the case of this announcement affecting the Tucson, Ariz., infrastructure, CenturyLink said road construction forced it to “abandon its copper cables and transfer services to a fiber-fed digital loc system.”

FierceTelecom reported on CenturyLink copper retirements disclosed in July and said that new fibered facilities in Minnesota and Washington were part of the carrier’s 16-city fiber-to-the-premises effort create 1 Gbps business and residential service.

However, if Google’s effort is any indication, the fiber build-outs may not pan out as planned.

Google scaled back its ambitious fiber launched in Kansas City five years ago, and that now includes Austin, Texas; Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville; Provo, Utah; Salt Lake City and the Raleigh-Durham N.C. area. Several more “potential fiber cities” were put on indefinite hold while the plan to wire San Francisco was dropped in favor of wireless service, ars technica said.

While Google didn’t say as much, observers noted that Google’s game of overbuilding is expensive and difficult. Nashville Public Radio reports two water main breaks have been attributed to Google’s overbuild there. In Louisville, Ky., AT&T challenged a municipal ordinance giving Google Fiber expedited access to utility poles, ars technica reports.

Shortly after Google announced the rollback, AT&T’s Joan Marsh observed that Google fiber learned “something we’ve known for over a hundred years—deploying communications networks is hard and takes an enormous amount of time, money and skilled labor.”

CenturyLink—which has the home-field advantage of being an incumbent versus an overbuilder—has given no indication of curtailing its fiber build-out while the copper retirement continues. The Level 3 acquisition will bring CenturyLink another 200,000 miles of fiber, according to The New York Times.

CenturyLink is not alone in retiring copper. In April, The Philadelphia Inquirerreported on a program within Verizon called “Fiber is the Only Fix,” in which old copper lines are not repaired, but only replaced with fiber.

Meanwhile in Western Europe, internet service providers are developing technology to delivery up to 5 Gbps over copper, ars said. This technology, XG.fast, is the assumed successor to G.fast, which purported to match fiber speeds over copper at 400 meters, was approved by the International Telecommunications Union in 2014. A study by Ovum highlighted at ZDNetsaid G.fast will be in 29 million premises in five years.


1. Report Nos. NCD-2639 & NCD-2595; Report Nos. NCD-2640 & NCD-2596; Report Nos. NCD-2637 & NCD-2593; Report Nos. NCD-2641 & NCD-2597.

Also See…
Oct. 31, 2016
CenturyLink, a Network Provider, to Acquire Level 3, a Rival
It brings CenturyLink an additional 200,000 route miles of fiber and potentially big commercial customers.


Aug. 25, 2016
Report: Google Fiber to Cut Staff After User Totals Disappoint,”DSL Reports

Dec. 9, 2014
4KTV: ITU Enables 1 Gbps Over Copper
The global media technology standards body approved a method for getting data through phone lines at 1 Gbps.