Rural Telcos Face Huge Upgrade

Washington-Rural phone carriers would have to spend about another $11 billion to upgrade all of their lines for broadband, according to a survey by a phone-industry organization that also found that 65 percent of rural lines are already conditioned for quick Internet access.

The survey, released last Wednesday by the National Exchange Carrier Association, said the price tag was too large for the companies to handle themselves, requiring Congress or the Federal Communications Commission to increase financial support for the local phone companies.

The survey-which focused solely on the cost to upgrade the lines that run from the companies to end-users-found that expenses skyrocket the further away consumers reside from phone carriers' central offices.

Although it would cost $483 to upgrade lines near central offices, the cost would soar to $9,328 for lines in the most remote parts of the country, the survey found.

The NECA said 3.3 million of the 9.5 million lines classified as rural have not been upgraded, putting the overall price tag at $11 billion.

About 1.6 million lines located close to central offices would cost $800 million to upgrade; another 1 million lines that reach deeper into rural areas would cost $4.5 billion; and the most remote areas, served by about 600,000 lines, would cost $5.6 billion, the survey found.