The Federal Communications Commission has been slow to provide details to Sen. Michael Bennet about how CenturyLink is spending millions of dollars on publicly funded rural internet improvements.
Bennet, D-Colo, sent a letter to the FCC in early November asking for details about CenturyLink’s work by Nov. 10.
As of Monday, his office had not received a reply, spokeswoman Samantha Slater said.
CenturyLink received funding in 2015 to improve internet services to homes and businesses in Colorado, and while some general information is available on the FCC’s website, it doesn’t provide many specifics, the letter stated.
A presentation by representatives of CenturyLink in September stated the company received $159 million to improve internet service to 50,000 areas across the state over six years.
“Given that taxpayer funding is helping to pay for these deployments, we believe our constituents have a right to clear, detailed information about where those funds are spent,” according to Bennet’s letter.
The letter requested data that would tell consumers if they lived in areas selected for improved service, when they could expect service to improve and what speeds they could expect, among other details.
Bennet’s staff plans to continue working on the issue, Slater said.
CenturyLink is aware of the senator’s letter, but a spokesman for the company, Brandon Yergey, did not provide answers to other emailed questions.
The FCC did not immediately respond to requests from The Durango Herald for comment.
“The FCC’s Connect America Fund is an important federal program that can help to close the digital divide, but the funding must be used to sufficiently provide internet access to our most disconnected communities,” Bennet said in a statement emailed to the Herald.
The Southwest Colorado Council of Governments sent a letter to Bennet’s office in October raising concerns about CenturyLink and the company’s willingness to share information.
The council has received complaints about CenturyLink’s service across the region, including areas that were slated to receive publicly funded upgrades, the letter stated.
“When approached regarding these concerns, answers are elusive and issues remain largely unaddressed,” it said.
In some areas, there has been a decrease in the internet speed that CenturyLink has provided, said Miriam Gillow-Wiles, executive director of the council. The council’s membership includes city and county governments from across the region.
A map that CenturyLink provided to the council in September used the company’s call centers for geographic reference instead of counties or other more common boundaries.
“It’s not a tangible product for local governments to understand,” Gillow-Wiles said.
The council also noted specific concern about internet improvements around Lemon Reservoir. The company told the council that the area would not receive publicly funded improvements. But the FCC’s website shows that the area should receive improvements, the council’s letter said.
One of the council members, the city of Cortez, is interested in where CenturyLink is making improvements because the city has its own fiber-optic network and companies lease the lines to provide internet service to customers.
If the city of Cortez knew where CenturyLink was building new fiber, it could make sure that the city’s infrastructure focused on areas of town that would remain unserved or under-served after the company’s improvements were finished, City Manager Shane Hale said.
“We could structure any deployments to ensure we didn’t overbuild them,” Hale said.