TALLAHASSEE — On April 1, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) granted CenturyLink Communications, LLC’s request to be an eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC). This approval means CenturyLink—with its affiliate Embarq Florida, Inc.—is a step closer to obtaining federal funding to help bridge the digital divide in Florida.
“COVID-19 has made the digital divide even more apparent. Teleworking and remote learning requirements are greatly affecting those without adequate access to high-speed broadband networks,” said PSC Chairman Gary Clark. “With the Commission granting CenturyLink ETC status, the company can seek federal funding to create public and private investment in Florida to offer more high-speed broadband access in unserved communities.”
On January 30, 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the framework for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). The RDOF initiative allocates up to $20.4 billion through a two-phase competitive auction to help connect millions of unserved rural homes and small businesses to high-speed broadband. The FCC set aside $16 billion for Phase I of the auction, and $9.2 billion was allocated. The FCC aims to encourage the deployment of sustainable networks as new advancements are made to deliver broadband access for the future.
In Florida, 11 bidders were selected to receive approximately $192 million of high-cost support in RDOF Phase I. CenturyLink will receive $5 million in Phase I to be used in specified census blocks in Florida.
An ETC designation is required for telecommunications carriers to receive funding for the Lifeline Assistance and High-Cost programs to provide service in remote and underserved areas. The RDOF will help qualified companies deploy needed infrastructure to provide service in parts of the country most in need of connectivity.
CenturyLink Communication, LLC and Embarq Florida, Inc. are indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries of Lumen Technologies, Inc.
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