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CenturyLink to lay down 31 miles of fiber for Charleston businesses


Fiber-optic cables carry hundreds of glass strands and function as a highway for internet traffic. File/AP

Given greater demands from the Lowcountry's growing technology sector, an internet infrastructure giant is building out its fiber-optic cable backbone in the region. 

CenturyLink, a publicly traded company based in Monroe, La., already has one of the largest networks in the area. It owns 450,000 miles of the bundled strands of glass around the world.

While it serves customers directly, CenturyLink doubles as a wholesaler that leases space on its network to other broadband providers. Its enterprise, small business and wholesale lines account for more than half of its annual revenue, which totaled $22.4 billion for 2019.

Part of the new, 31-mile network CenturyLink is building this year will serve the North Charleston area, where new businesses have set up shop and need a higher level of service. The city has been underserved in internet options, said Ben Team, general manager of CenturyLink in the Carolinas.

The expansion will serve businesses, including startups, and data centers.

As employers amass and store ever-growing amounts of data, Team said, their fiber needs grow. 

"It ties together some existing fiber routes to tech and manufacturing in North Charleston," he said. "It allows those companies that are near to blend their network connectivity."

Laying more cable also adds redundancies to the network and allows users to recover more quickly after disasters. 

Charleston is one of eight regions where CenturyLink is planning buildouts this year, Team said.

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Charleston was a target for CenturyLink in part because of its burgeoning startup scene

Campus is closed

Daniel Island's two major technology campuses have largely gone quiet, joining businesses across the country that have shifted to a remote work strategy as coronavirus spread.

Benefitfocus Inc. began working under a "mandatory remote work structure" Thursday. All of its buildings are temporarily closed, a spokesman for the maker of cloud-based workplace benefits software said. 

Blackbaud Inc., meanwhile, said it has "invested in technology" to help its employees work remotely. The company, which tailors its software and services for  nonprofit organizations, began encouraging staffers to work from home starting last Monday.

Both companies are publicly traded. 

Last Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended against gatherings of 50 or more people as the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States mounted.

Like many stocks, the Nasdaq-listed shares of Benefitfocus and Blackbaud have suffered since the coronavirus outbreak escalated in the United States. Since late February, BNFT fell 40 percent, closing at $8 Thursday.  BLKB was off 32 percent in the same period, closing at $49 on Thursday. 

Reach Mary Katherine Wildeman at 843-607-4312. Follow her on Twitter @mkwildeman.

Mary Katherine, who also goes by MK, is a reporter covering health care and technology for The Post and Courier's business desk. She grew up in upstate New York and enjoys playing cards, kayaking and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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