Did Foster Campbell Just Congratulate CenturyLink For Laying Off 55 People In Louisiana?

Well, not exactly. But first we have this…

Campbell Praises CenturyLink for Joining Broadband Expansion Program

MONROE, La. –CenturyLink’s decision to partner with the Federal Communications Commission on broadband development across Louisiana and the United States is “the best news I’ve heard in months,” said Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell.

The Monroe-based company announced today that it has accepted $505 million in annual, ongoing support from the FCC’s “Connect America Fund” to develop high-speed Internet service for more than 2 million CenturyLink customers nationwide.

“For Louisiana the company will gain nearly $10 million to provide almost 25,000 rural and suburban households with fast Internet service,” Campbell said.

“That money will go a long way toward meeting the continuing demand for broadband in areas of Louisiana where it is not readily available.”

Campbell, D-Bossier City, has championed broadband development in Louisiana since joining the Public Service Commission in 2003.  He supported the state’s acceptance of an $80-million federal grant for broadband development in 2010, only to see the Jindal Administration lose the grant over political differences with the federal government.

Just this week Campbell asked LPSC staff to determine if the commission’s State Universal Service Fund can be used to encourage development of Internet service in rural and suburban areas.

Last month he called upon President Obama to expand the federal “ConnectHome” pilot program for broadband in public housing to include Monroe as a test city along with Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

“Louisiana has vast areas unserved by high-speed Internet, particularly in North Louisiana,” he said.  “Many of these areas have high rates of poverty and lack of economic opportunity.

“If we are going to close these digital divides and bring the benefits of broadband to our schools, businesses, health-care facilities and residents, we need to seek out every possible means of assistance.”

The FCC said CenturyLink’s acceptance of more than half a billion dollars in Connect America funding was the largest amount of money accepted by any company to date.

“I commend CenturyLink for taking this step with the FCC, and I encourage other communications companies to do likewise,” Campbell said.

According to the FCC, telecom companies receiving Connect America Fund support must build out broadband to 40 percent of funded locations by the end of 2017, 60 percent by the end of 2018, 80 percent by the end of 2019, and 100 percent by the end of 2020.

Our readers might remember when this issue first came up back in July. Campbell buffaloed two other members of the Public Service Commission, one of whom being Scott Angelle, into demanding that the Connect-Home program expand to Monroe. Essentially, what’s happening is that CenturyLink is going to get a bunch of federal grant money to run high-speed internet lines to poor people and charge them $9.95 a month for service they’re charging the paying customers a lot more for.

It’s high-speed internet welfare. Both for the provider and for the recipient.

And naturally, like Margaret Thatcher said, it’ll work great so long as you don’t run out of other people’s money. Interestingly enough, CenturyLink catching $10 million in federal grants to provide subsidized broadband for Louisiana isn’t enough to save the 55 jobs it’s cutting in the state as part of 1,000 layoffs nationwide.

You’d think that free money – CenturyLink is getting a half-billion dollars, after all – would be enough to make the company grow rather than shrink. And perhaps they will; it could be that they’ll be hiring people in other places while they’re having these layoffs. But you could also interpret this deal a different way; namely that participating in this broadband welfare program is a net loser for CenturyLink – they might be breaking even on the buildout, but actually collecting that $9.95 a month from the broke people this program is supposed to benefit is likely to be a dicey proposition and ultimately it’s going to devolve into a mess. Which CenturyLink knows, and wouldn’t have participated in it but for the fact that when Foster Campbell, who is more or less a professional extortionist just like every Democrat regulator in existence, makes such a demand they snap to and then make allowances for the cost of being extorted.

In this case, in the form of layoffs. But the 55 people in Louisiana and 1,000 nationwide who are getting laid off might just be able to congratulate themselves for serving as an heroic sacrifice for the benefit of all the poor people who’ll now be getting dirt-cheap broadband for to play Forge Of Empires and watch Kanye West on YouTube.

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