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Unfolding the History and Milestones Behind CenturyLink

by Maria Caballero
CenturyLink Company History

What once started as a family-operated business in 1930 grew to become America’s third largest telecommunications brand. CenturyLink, Inc. offers its clientele security, networking, and cloud technologies delivered in pre-configured or customized products. Labeled by key technology analyst firms as a leader in network services, the company continues to improve its goods through acquisitions and partnerships.

CenturyLink was rebranded as Lumen Technologies in 2020 with the ticker symbol LUMN and employs approximately 38,000 professionals. It’s currently headquartered in Monroe, Los Angeles, and is an S&P 500 firm and member of the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest enterprises.

CenturyLink’s Origin Story: Family Business turned to Industry Leader

CenturyLink was not immediately a grand idea. It was a property passed on from one family member to another until it was fortified to be the telecommunications group it’s labeled as today. Its earliest known forerunner was the Oakridge Telephone Company, first owned by F.E. Hogan Sr., located in Oak Ridge, Louisiana. In 1930, Hogan sold it for a sum of $500 to William Clarke and Marie Williams.

The couple then passed the ownership to their son, Clarke McRae Williams, as a wedding gift in 1946. CenturyLink became a family-operated business up until 1968 when it was incorporated as Central Telephone and Electronics. Shortly after, it changed its name to Century Telephone Enterprises, Inc. in 1971.

Building a Formidable Start: CenturyLink’s Early Acquisitions

CenturyLink bought La Crosse Telephone Corporation in 1972, ushering in a multidecade period of significant growth for the business. The company’s early success continued, partly as a result of a string of related acquisitions that bolstered CenturyLink into achieving higher profits and productivity.

Some of the brand’s most essential assets are those obtained through its purchases of Digital Teleport and Level 3 Communications in 2003. These acquisitions included each group’s fiber networks. Two years later, the organization began its wireless phone and data service exploration. It also bought more fiber networks throughout the central United States.

In exchange for $5.8 billion in stock, the company was able to buy Embarq Corporation. The transaction was to make its operations more cost-efficient and fight against the decreasing demand for traditional phone systems. In 2010, Century Telephone Enterprises, Inc. (CenturyTel) became CenturyLink.

By securing Qwest Communications in 2011, it expanded its scope and diversified its revenue portfolio. This deal effectively propelled the firm to the third spot on the national rating. In the same year, the business was also able to obtain ownership over Savvis. This arrangement marked the beginning of its participation in the cloud computing sector to further upgrade its products and services.

CenturyLink in Transcending Limits and Challenges

Success is never without obstacles. Throughout the firm’s venture, consumers have questioned its customer service and general reputation due to several significant service disruptions.

  1. CenturyLink Network Outage. A report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published in 2019 recounted one of the worst network outages in US history. CenturyLink suffered this unfortunate network service interruption in late 2018. It had a 37-hour nationwide outage that affected almost 22 million customers in 39 states and prevented the connection of nearly a thousand 911 calls.
  2. Utah and CenturyLink’s Security Software Ad. CenturyLink was criticized for not giving their Utah consumers the choice to decline a purchased filtering software before connecting them to the internet. This incident was due to the brand’s misinterpretation of a newly passed bill. Its sponsor clarified that the bill requires providers to conspicuously notify customers of filtering options to protect minors, but not block internet access.
  3. CenturyLink’s Minnesota Over-Billing Issue. The company was also involved in a fraudulent case by Keith Ellison, then Minnesota attorney general. The problem affected 12,000 Minnesota consumers who were either promised discounts or deserved refunds for “bogus fees.”

CenturyLink powered through these hurdles by continuously providing solutions and innovations to better its services and reputation. Through this, it was able to retain the trust of its local and primarily governmental consumers. A contract for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s core networking services was given to CenturyLink in 2019 to improve its information technology and telecommunications. Moreover, a task order to offer secure connectivity to the US Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) and a $1.6 billion deal with the US Department of the Interior (DOI) were both awarded to CenturyLink in 2020.

Towards a New Century: The Shift to “Lumen”

CenturyLink has gone a long way and so is the telecommunication market landscape it’s a part of. The Fourth Industrial Revolution gave rise to life-altering technologies including artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and autonomous cars. These significant changes and additions are the greatest factors in the company’s decision to rebrand itself to reflect such developments.

CenturyLink officially announced its renaming to Lumen Technologies, Inc. on September 14, 2020. The new name follows Lumen’s focus on helping businesses handle technological difficulties, and enhance operations amidst this new digital and telecommunications age. Edge computing and intent-based networking are only two of the features that Lumen introduces into the revolution.

Lumen also has its own stock ticker LUMN, which separated the more lucrative portions of what was formerly CenturyLink from the home and small business offerings. Going forward, the corporation has no plans to alter its reporting or financial approach.

Lumen’s CEO, Jeffrey Storey, has recently become more vocal about how uncomfortable it is to see Lumen perceived by the market as a purely traditional communication corporation that still uses copper lines. Thus, it’s only proper to rename the brand to showcase its diverse products, especially its fiber-based income stream, where Lumen or “Light” came from.

Outplaying Competitors: Lumen’s Advantage

A few notable rivals of CenturyLink are AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. Its reputation of having a well-established infrastructure spanning a significant chunk of the central United States gives it a distinct advantage. Along with lower starting prices for internet connection, the brand also provides better value pricing for gigabit internet than others.

However, some review websites have claimed that CenturyLink’s customer service is subpar. Plus a string of disastrous network outages over the past ten years, one of which the FCC called among the worst in American history, it’s undeniable that CenturyLink’s reputation has been damaged. Other areas where it falls include the internet speeds it provides (Comcast, for instance, is faster) and the general shortage of Wi-Fi hotspots.

Despite these external threats, the IT and Managed Services provided by the business give it room to flourish. It offers technology solutions and handles such on its clients’ behalf. These uninterrupted services include network, hosting, cloud, and IT services.

The Economic Drivers of Lumen

CenturyLink has a variety of networking services based on Ethernet technology. It’s one of the primary growth factors for the business. Equipment configurations for point-to-point and multi-point Ethernet-based networking services are also available.

Data transmissions via wide area networks and metropolitan area networks are supported by specific equipment arrangements. The market for carrier ethernet is expanding steadily. In fact, nearly 80% of the market for bandwidth connectivity services worldwide is currently accounted for by ethernet-based networking services.

Unlit optical fiber technology developed by the organization is another growth engine. Dark fiber is another name for an unlit optical fiber that has already been installed. This high-bandwidth technology aids big companies in creating highly secure networks. It assists others with network deployment and implementation as well as specialized network design.

The rapidly expanding market for dark fiber networks is seen as a crucial factor for CenturyLink’s long-term revenue growth.

What Lies Ahead: The Perceived Trajectory of Lumen

Since the introduction of 5G that’s designed for fast connectivity speeds and sizable bandwidth for easier communication, many experts shared their concerns for CenturyLink’s future. This unease is caused by cable TV and phone lines becoming unpopular with the latest technologies.

Although it has fiber optics needed in 5G, CenturyLink may fall as a subsidiary of a business with more knowledge in the field. But that is not for certain. The organization still has a significant cash flow it can use to upgrade its operations to be at par with the latest connectivity technology.

Its current tagline of “The platform for amazing things,” sheds light on the future CenturyLink, now Lumen, is after. With a vision of “Furthering human progress through technology“, the brand can continue to develop its edge computing and cloud services to stay relevant. However, because it has been recruiting advisors and analysts, it won’t be a surprise for the brand to have a major restructuring or be sold in its entirety.

In the end, the future of CenturyLink’s ability to provide services for its customers is still uncertain and will depend on the company’s ability to adapt to technological changes.

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