CenturyLink expanding its services in Clark County

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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Vancouver and Clark County had a low profile in CenturyLink's Tuesday announcement that the company is expanding its gigabit service in Portland. But a top company official said Wednesday that the company is also aggressively expanding its ultra-fast Internet service on this side of the Columbia River.

Chris Denzin, CenturyLink's general manager for the Portland-Vancouver area, told The Columbian that the service is already widely used by large businesses and government agencies and is now increasingly available to small and midsized Clark County businesses. He noted that CenturyLink is installing gigabit services in new housing developments, including the Erickson Farms subdivision in Felida and the Prestige Plaza apartments in downtown Vancouver.

The ongoing business expansion will broaden CenturyLink's business offerings beyond large users into smaller professional users, strip malls, and small and emerging businesses. "Not every business will have access to our service, but thousands of businesses can call today and have access today," Denzin said. He said companies can find out if the service is availably simply by calling CenturyLink.

Typical residential users in Clark County will have to wait longer for gigabit service. But Denzin emphasized that high-speed fiber service, at speeds still fast but less than a gigabit, is increasingly available in Clark County neighborhoods.

"We've had to dig up the streets around Vancouver and digging up throughout the region," he said of the fiber cable service expansion. "Vancouver is pretty well covered."

In Portland, CenturyLink said it would offer residential gigabit service in some of the city's neighborhoods. CenturyLink says its one gigabit allows users to stream high-definition video content with little to no delays and download movies, songs and TV shows in seconds. The service will cost $152 a month, or $80 for customers of multiple CenturyLink services.

Portland's market is highly competitive, with Google Fiber laying the groundwork for offering its gigabit Internet services. Google Fiber has already reached a franchise agreement with the city of Portland and said it will decide by the end of this year whether to offer the service in Portland and several suburban areas. Service could begin next year. Google Fiber has no immediate plans to offer service in Clark County.

In Clark County, Denzin said CenturyLink has several business competitors and competes in the residential market against Comcast. The company has no plans at the present time to move into offering cable television services in the county, he said.

The Columbia River Economic Development Council issued a statement praising CenturyLink's announcement that its ultra-fast fiber offerings are more widely available to business users.

"We greatly appreciate CenturyLink's decision to make this important investment in the fiber infrastructure of Clark County," said Mike Bomar, CREDC president. "This is an important tool not only for the technology industry, but for numerous small and medium-sized businesses to remain competitive as well."

This week's launch of expanded business and consumer gigabit service in the Portland metro area coincided with launches in 15 other cities.