CenturyLink tries to hide California market squeeze under pile of paperwork

30 December 2016 by Steve Blum
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CenturyLink is asking the Federal Communications Commission for formal permission to buy Level 3, and it’s trying to portray the deal as a couple of complementary, non-overlapping companies coming together to fight the bigger, badder companies that make the telecoms market so uncompetitive.

Not so. At least where California is concerned.

The filing would have you believe that CenturyLink just…

Provides communications services including voice, wholesale local network access, high-speed Internet access, data transmission, security monitoring, and information, entertainment, and transport services through its copper and fiber networks in the United States. CenturyLink also provides wholesale and retail fiber- based transport services, database services on a wholesale basis, and wholesale access to its network to other carriers, cable companies, Internet service providers, and resellers.

Level 3, on the other hand…

Provides primarily fiber-based communications services such as Internet backbone, broadband transport, collocation, voice, and IP-based services [and] Level 3’s fiber assets include a “global telecommunications network of more than 209,000 owned or controlled route miles of fiber, including approximately 129,000 route miles of fiber in the North America region [and] Level 3 serves no residential customers, but focuses on serving businesses, primarily large enterprise customers.

Funny, the FCC’s summary doesn’t mention how many thousands of miles of fiber CenturyLink owns, particularly in California where its fiber routes parallel Level 3’s along critical long haul routes connecting the state’s regions. Well, CenturyLink and Level 3 do claim that…

Of the overlapping long-haul fiber routes owned and controlled by either CenturyLink or Level 3, every overlapping CenturyLink-Level 3 route will face competition after the consummation of the Transaction.

Except in California, that so-called competition would come from Verizon and AT&T, which are the rest of the foursome owning fiber along key corridors that CenturyLink – another big, Bell-centric incumbent – wants to make a threesome.

CenturyLink’s claims can be challenged at the FCC – public comments are due 7 February 2017 – but the real responsibility for protecting California’s telecoms market rests with the California Public Utilities Commission, which also has to sign off on the deal. How that review goes could largely depend on who governor Jerry Brown picks to replace two activist commissioners he might have reappointed, but didn’t.