centurylink_CenturyLink yesterday announced a big win, gaining the contract to provide Carrier Ethernet service at speeds up to 100 Gbps to 832 schools and educational locations connected to the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN). But it was actually an even bigger win than those numbers suggest.

With plans to deploy fiber to support the UETN business, CenturyLink was able to also build a business case to deploy high-speed broadband to homes and businesses in four Utah communities – St. George, Hurricane, Cedar City and Washington country, said Jeremy Ferkin, CenturyLink vice president of operations for Utah, Nevada and California, in an interview.

“We’re helping to drive the gigabit economy,” said Ferkin. CenturyLink, he said, wants to provide gigabit connectivity for customers at home, at work and at school, he said.

More than 60 housing developments and 10,000 individual homes are gaining fiber-to-the-home connectivity as a result of the UETN contract, Ferkin said.

UETN/ CenturyLink Deal
UETN initially was designed as a teleconferencing network but today supports both teleconferencing and data service. CenturyLink has provided service to UETN for many years, initially serving UETN through its predecessor company US West. CenturyLink isn’t UETN’s only supplier, however. An additional 580 locations are served by other network operators.

Ferkin noted that “everything is rebid every five years so I have to keep earning” UETN’s business. He added that “UETN keeps holding our feet to the fire both from a cost and availability standpoint.”

The service that UETN is buying from CenturyLink is Ethernet private line, explained UETN Communications Manager Rich Finlinson. The network architecture isn’t a pure hub and spoke design, however.

“We’re using higher education institutions as major [points of presence],” said Finlinson. “We aggregate the signal there.” In some cases high schools act as aggregation points, he added.

Some of the costs of the CenturyLink contract were paid for through the e-rate Universal Service program. “We have a discount rate of 71%,” Finlinson said, adding that it’s a great deal for education.

He noted, for example, that some high school students are able to take courses that count toward college and that Utah students are well trained for today’s work force.

“The state is recognized for helping business grow,” said Ferkin. As a result, he said, many companies are investing in the state.