A new report, from Communications Workers of America in partnership with NDIA, shows that Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) underinvested in building internet infrastructure in lower-income areas and Tribal lands. 

The report, titled, “Lumen’s Digital Disparity: Underinvestment in Infrastructure Discriminates Against Lower-Income, Rural, and Native American Customers,” analyzes Lumen, one of the country’s major broadband providers. Lumen has 4.7 million residential and small business subscribers, and is worsening the digital divide in the US by failing to invest in essential fiber-optic buildout in lower-income, rural, and Tribal communities. 

The analysis combines research from Lumen’s network in 30 states using Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Form 477 data, interviews with Lumen technicians, and reports by local advocates in Lumen’s service area. Findings show that the company’s underinvestment in broadband deployment in lower-income communities is exacerbated by its recent job cuts of highly-skilled union workers. 

Key Findings:

  • 42% of households with access to fiber in Lumen’s footprint are in census blocks with median incomes above $75,000.
  • 7% of Lumen’s fiber network is in census blocks with median incomes below $35,000.
  • 39% of households in Lumen’s footprint do not have access to speeds that meet the FCC’s definition of broadband. 
  • Only 5.8% of households in the rural counties in Lumen’s national footprint have access to fiber-to-the-home service. 
  • About 5.2% of households in counties with higher populations of Native Americans have access to fiber-to-the-home service while 50% only have DSL access. 

“This report is the first to highlight Lumen’s underinvestment in our country’s most disadvantaged communities. Despite being one of the largest broadband providers in the country, the company has time and again chosen to invest in wealthy areas over low-income, rural and Tribal communities,” said NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer. “This will not lead us to the digitally equitable society we’re all striving to achieve. In fact, the opposite is true. Their practices are worsening the digital divide.”

Read the full report, including recommendations to Lumen.