Telephone Access Lines Continue Falling in Arkansas

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Jul. 29, 2013 12:00 am  

Editor's Note: A correction has been made to this article. See note at the end of this story for details.

More and more telephone customers are dropping land lines and switching to cellphones, and that shows in Arkansas Business’ list of largest telecommunications carriers in 2012.

AT&T Corp. still tops the list of local exchange carriers by far with $300 million in Arkansas revenue and 422,802 access lines, as reported to the Arkansas Public Service Commission. But its Arkansas-assessable revenue was down from $353 million in 2011 and it lost more than 50,000 landlines in a single year.

Its residential lines fell from 242,571 to 203,411, representing the majority of that loss. Business landlines are still used widely, and that number fell from 184,691 to 171,841.

That doesn’t necessarily mean AT&T has lost those customers. The telecom giant has aggressively promoted a replacement for landlines called “Wireless Home Phone” to its wireless customers. The PSC does not regulate wireless phones, so no Arkansas-specific count of wireless customers is available.

CenturyLink, which is No. 2 on the list of local exchange carriers and serves less-populated areas, saw its revenue fall from $84.2 million in 2011 to $77.3 million in 2012. Its total line count fell from 156,541 to 148,946. Residential lines fell from 112,899 to 105,956 and business lines from 41,018 to 40,599.

Most of these carriers have shifted into other service areas to make up for the withering landline market. Windstream Corp., for example, is the third company on the list. In February, Windstream reported that its business and consumer broadband services now make up about 70 percent of the company’s revenue.

Its total revenue of $6.3 billion landed it earlier this year at No. 414 on Fortune magazine’s annual list of the country’s 500 largest corporations.

Its landline revenue in Arkansas, as reported to the PSC, rose by 1 percent from $72.5 million to $73.2 million between 2011 and 2012. Its total landline count fell from 165,237 to 162,445.

Get the Lists: See the largest long-distance carriers in Arkansas and the largest local exchange carriers in Arkansas.

Other companies on the list have also diversified to compensate for troubles in the landline industry.

E. Ritter & Co. of Marked Tree, which has a large agribusiness segment in addition to its telecom business, became an Internet service provider in the 1990s and added a cable TV service in 2005. It lost almost 6,600 access lines between 2011 and 2012.

Similarly, Northern Arkansas Telephone Co. of Flippin, known to most as Natco, operates fiber lines and television services.

Its landlines fell from 5,780 in 2011 to 5,439 in 2012. (See here for a history of Natco.)

Interexchange carriers, which include both long-distance lines and pay phone companies, have been hit even harder by the rise of the cellphone.

Only five companies meet our criteria of having annual Arkansas revenue greater than $1 million.

A sixth, Securus Technologies Inc. of Dallas, dropped off the list, with its revenue having fallen from $1.03 million in 2011 to $824,198 in 2012.

Correction: In the eighth paragraph, Windstream's landline revenue figures for 2011 and 2012 were incorrectly reported. We have corrected those figures to show that Windstream's revenue increased 1 percent.



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