New name for Qwest won’t debut until May

Eastern Washington data and phone customers of Qwest Communications won’t start seeing the name CenturyLink on billing statements until May.

On Friday, the Louisiana-based telecom company formally took over Qwest’s western U.S. operations, including all of its phone and data services for Eastern Washington and several Idaho metro areas, including Lewiston.

Qwest customers won’t see price increases this year, and the first name changes will debut on bills and marketing messages starting in May, regional general manager Tom Novotney said Friday.

Formal branding and sign changes are set to occur in August.

Novotney has been with Qwest and its predecessor, U S West Inc., for more than 20 years. He’s been told by CenturyLink that he’ll have more decision-making power.

“Under Qwest, a lot of the decisions were done from Denver, from a centralized approach,” he said. CenturyLink wants Novotney to look at what competitors in this market are doing and make changes in prices or products as needed, Novotney said.

CenturyLink’s plan is to invest in more “fiber to the node” network technology to provide DSL broadband speeds above 7 megabits per second, to as high as 40 megabits per second.

That investment will help CenturyLink compete against Comcast’s high-speed Internet service, which has more customers than Qwest DSL has had.

At this point CenturyLink has fiber-node services that can offer high-speed DSL to about 25 percent of the city’s phone line customers, he said.

For business customers, CenturyLink is enhancing the backbone fiber network that takes data out of Spokane onto the national carrier networks. Novotney said area businesses will see a variety of Ethernet-based options.

In addition, CenturyLink has agreed to roll out more broadband services to underserved rural areas across the state, Novotney said. That was a condition of sale approval by Washington’s Transportation and Utility Commission.

He’s unable to offer specific dates, “but CenturyLink has committed to spending $80 million over the next five years to provide service to underserved and unserved rural areas,” he said.

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