Qwest and CenturyTel are merging. The two phone providers could also improve high speed internet in the county, but not right away. Qwest Minnesota president John Stanoch explained the merger and broadband issues with the county board. WTIPs Jay Andersen has this story.
At the April 27 Cook County Board meeting, Qwest Communications president for Minnesota John Stanoch brought commissioners up to date on the proposed merger between the county’s two local telephone providers.
Stanoch: As you know, last week a merger was announced for CenturyLink is acquiring Quest. I’m not, you know—it’s speculative. We think that deal will close in about a year and we’ll hear from the CenturyLink people. I think for Cook County, in particular, it’s a positive, because these are the two existing providers you have in the county that will be coming together, and I think that will be a stronger company.
Stanoch added the two companies remain separate until the merger acquisition is finalized, so everything Quest currently has on the table to improve telephone service in the county is moving forward as planned. Stanoch was asked about the Qwest proposal for extending high speed internet in the county. He said theirs was a limited plan, but could expand once the merger takes place.
Stanoch: We would be providing broadband services that would allow us—we would be voice and data services. It would basically allow us to upgrade our data or services at higher speeds. We are not in the business of the so-called “triple play,” where we would be providing either video services, nor would it be fiber to the home. One of the things that’s interesting I think about the CenturyLink acquisition request is CenturyLink does have some exchanges around the country where they’ve been more active in IVTV. The stimulus proposal for us would not be fiber to the home nor would it have a video component or “triple play” to it. It would be bringing broadband so people can access the internet at better speeds.
Currently there are two other fiber optic proposals seeking federal stimulus money. The Arrowhead Electric Cooperative proposal is an infrastructure building plan designed to reach every Cook County home with television, broadband and telephone.
The Northeast Service Cooperative has received a “Middle Mile” grant of $21,749,110 and a loan of an additional $21,749,110. Essentially, the grant provides for a fiber highway connecting various communities in the Northeast. A second round grant is being sought to provide for the extension of fiber optic service from the trunk line to individual homes and businesses.
Stanoch said with the merger projected to finalize in a year, the companies can address broadband as they have telephone service.
Stanoch: Our view as a company is we probably ought to acquire Victory in the effort to get every American voice service, but we need to pivot now to broadband, and we think that taking government dollars, limited government dollars, and focusing them on building out broadband to unserved areas is something where we will continue to work with you and look for joint opportunities where we could be supportive of your effort to do so.
According to the county’s information technician, Danna MacKenzie, the Arrowhead and Northeast Service applications have different elements in their models for the government to choose from. Commissioners are on record supporting both applications. The Qwest proposal would essentially increase existing broadband speed and does not overlap the other two projects.
Jay Andersen, WTIP news.