Windstream Works to Upgrade As FCC Finds Broadband Lacking

by Luke Jones  on Monday, May. 13, 2013 12:00 am  

Last week, Little Rock’s Windstream Corp. officially joined the Fortune 500. Traditionally a telephone company, Windstream’s trajectory has been guided by focusing on Internet and data as the country’s landline business dries up.

But is its broadband service good enough to keep up its $6.16 billion revenue? A Federal Communications Commission report suggests improvements are needed.

Windstream provides broadband service in both urban and rural areas. The company has 115,000 miles of fiber cable. About 75 percent of the company’s high-speed Internet revenue is residential service, with the rest being supplied to small businesses.

“We offer anything from 1.5 megs through 24 megs of service,” said David Redmond, Windstream’s senior vice president of consumer services. “It varies depending on technology, architecture, geographic footprint and a number of other things like that.”

In February, the FCC released its third “Measuring Broadband America” report comparing Internet service providers based on speeds measured last September. It found that on average, ISPs delivered 97 percent of advertised download speeds during peak periods.

At peak times, Windstream delivered 85 percent of its 3 Mbps tier but only 72 percent of its 12 Mbps tier. The latter was the lowest performance across all ISPs and speed tiers.

When the FCC tested sustained download and upload speeds, Windstream was again among the lowest performers, delivering only about 80 percent of what was advertised. Most other ISPs were delivering 85 percent or higher.

The report’s findings were familiar to Redmond.

“The real story is what we’re doing about it,” he said. “The core part of the story is that we’re investing quite a bit of capital in the last few years and the next few years to upgrade our high-speed Internet network.”

Redmond said Windstream spent close to $100 million in 2012 and spends $80 million to $100 million a year on upgrading what the company calls its “backhaul,” or the part of the network that connects households with Windstream’s network.

But Phillip Dampier, a Rochester, N.Y., journalist who runs the watchdog blog, said “the devil is in the details” with Windstream.

“Over my years covering Windstream, I see what their press department will say, then I go and look at the statements they’re making to the FCC and to their own shareholders through investor conference calls,” he said. “Those are a lot different.”



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