The earliest predecessor of CenturyLink was the Oak Ridge Telephone Company in Oak Ridge, Louisiana, which was owned by F. E. Hogan, Sr. In 1930, Hogan sold the company, with 75 paid subscribers, to William Clarke and Marie Williams, for $500. They moved the switchboard to the Williams family front parlor. In 1946, the Williams' son, Clarke McRae Williams, received ownership of the family's telephone company as a wedding gift. In 1947, Clarke Williams learned the telephone company in Marion, Louisiana was for sale. With a loan from business associate Joe Sydney Carter, Clarke purchased the Marion Telephone Company and eventually made it his base of operation as he grew his company through more acquisitions. CenturyLink still maintains offices in the former headquarters building. The company remained as a family-operated business until it became incorporated in 1968.
By 1967, Oak Ridge Telephone Company served three states with 10,000 access lines. That year the company was incorporated as Central Telephone and Electronics. Clarke M. Williams served as president and chairman of the board. Between 1975 and 1972, Clarke gradually moved his headquarters from Marion to Monroe, Louisiana, to access the larger employee base and to be near the airport.
In 1971, the company was renamed as Century Telephone Enterprises, Inc. In 1972, Century Telephone acquired the La Crosse Telephone Corporation, of Wisconsin.
On October 24, 1978, Century Telephone moved to the New York Stock Exchange for the first time and began to trade under the ticker symbol CTL.
Century Telephone performed well during the long bear market of the 1970s, as its stock rose over fourfold. The company provided telephone service in parts of 14 states by that time.
In 1981, Century Telephone acquired War Telephone in West Virginia.
In 1982, Century Telephone's earnings peaked at $14 million, then declined in 1983 following the early 1980s recession, and finally began to recover in 1984. However, the 1983 decline led to a loss of half the value of the company's stock in 1984.
In 1985, both earnings and the stock price had recovered to new record highs. But by then, the company had accumulated $206 million in long-term debt. Century Telephone sold the operations of War Telephone and two other companies to Colonial Telephone for $4.66 million.
In 1987, the stock price nearly doubled from its low that year, and from its old 1982 record high, before falling back by a third in the 1987 stock market crash. Earnings had steadily grown each year from their 1983 low, and by 1987 reached nearly US$20 million.
In 1989, Century Telephone Enterprises acquired Universal Telephone, Inc. for US$90 million in cash. During the late 1980s the company began a long trend in which it performed extremely well. The stock split three-for-two twice in this period, as earnings steadily grew, through the 1990-1991 recession, and by year-end 1991, they reached nearly US$40 million, double from what they had been in 1987.
In 1992, Century Telephone acquired Central Telephone Company of Ohio, a Centel subsidiary, for $135 million. The acquisition served more than 65,000 access lines, and added 20% to Century's access line total. Also that year Glen F. Post III became Chief Executive Officer and, named Vice Chairman of the Board of Century Telephone.
In 1993, Century Telephone revenues were over $425 million, up from about $350 million in 1992. 1993 earnings were nearly $80 million, up from about $70 million in 1992, excluding a nearly $16 million charge in 1992 due to the cumulative effect from an accounting change that year. Also in 1993 the company split its stock three-for-two yet again. However, by then the company had accumulated nearly $520 million in long-term debt.
By 1995, Century Telephone Enterprises had been added to the S&P MidCap 400 index. Earnings had continued their steady growth trend through the 1994 economic soft landing, and by 1995 they reached over US$115 million. But the long-term debt continued to grow as well, reaching US$623 million that year.
In 1997, Century Telephone acquired Delta Security Alarm Co., Inc. of Monroe, Louisiana, and its largest acquisition up until that time, Pacific Telecom, doubling its size with 660,000 additional telephone access lines in 12 states. Pacific Telecom, Inc., would continue existence and was renamed CenturyTel of the Northwest, Inc.
In 1998, Century Telephone split its stock three-for-two once again. The company acquired another Monroe, Louisiana security company, Century Protection Systems, and also acquired 89,000 access lines and 19 exchanges in 21 northern Wisconsin communities from Ameritech. The affected customers had formerly been served by Wisconsin Bell. Ameritech's directory publishing operations serving those customers were also acquired.
In 1999, the company was renamed as CenturyTel, Inc. It split its stock three-for-two once more, and was added to the Standard & Poor's 500 Index that year.
In 2000, CenturyTel acquired 230,500 GTE lines in Arkansas, and also bought 127,000 GTE lines in Missouri in partnership with Spectra Communications. In Wisconsin, it acquired 133,000 additional lines, and 70,500 access lines for US$195 million from Verizon. That year CenturyTel also bought 62,650 lines for US$170 million in partnership with Telephone USA of Wisconsin, LLC.
In 2001, CenturyTel acquired CSW Net, Inc. of Russellville, Arkansas, and fended off a hostile take-over attempt by ALLTEL, Inc.
In 2002, the son of the company's original founder and Chairman of the Board Clarke M. Williams died. He was succeeded by then Vice Chairman Glen F. Post III. The company sold its wireless business to ALLTEL, to become a pure-play rural local exchange carrier. Also that year CenturyTel acquired 300,000 Verizon access lines in Alabama, and 354,000 Verizon access lines in Missouri, bringing its total operations to 22 states with 2.5 million access lines.
In 2003, CenturyTel acquired half ownership of SkyComm International, Inc. in Houston, Texas, in March, to form a satellite teleport for its global Network Access Point (NAP) system. In June, CenturyTel also acquired the fiber network of Digital Teleport, Inc., a 5,700-mile (9,200 km) route running from Illinois to Texas, and adjoining states. CenturyTel renamed the network company LightCore. Closing out the year, in December CenturyTel acquired the Midwest Fiber Optic Network (MFON) from Level 3 Communications, Inc. in December, a stand-alone system in the same core central states as LightCore.
In August 2004, it partnered with EchoStar Communications Corporation for DISH Network multi-channel digital TV. In September, CenturyTel began a relationship with Cingular Wireless.
In 2005, CenturyTel began a wireless voice and data service, and bought a number of fiber networks in the central United States, from KMC Telecom Holdings, Inc.
In 2006, CenturyTel sold its Arizona assets to Hopi Telecommunications, Inc., bringing total operations to 23 states.
In May 2007, CenturyTel acquired Madison River Communications, based out of Mebane, NC and parent company to four LECs (AL, GA, IL, and NC) as well as CLEC operations in IL, LA, and NC. The LECs included Mebtel Communications, a telephone company serving Alamance County, North Carolina; GulfTel Communications, based out of Foley, AL and serving Baldwin and surrounding counties; Coastal Communications, based out of Hinesville, GA; and Gallatin River Communications, serving the Dixon, Galesburg, and Pekin areas of IL.
In late 2007, the Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their online customers, ranked CenturyTel the best among six leading communications providers.
On October 27, 2008, Embarq announced that it would be acquired by CenturyTel, Inc. in an all-stock transaction valued at about $6 billion. CenturyTel's CEO Glen Post would remain CEO of the merged company following the acquisition, and remained CEO as of 2015. Embarq was the former landline business of Sprint and served cities in 18 states, including Nevada, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. The deal made CenturyTel the third-largest landline phone provider in Pennsylvania behind Verizon (through both Verizon Pennsylvania and Verizon North) and Comcast.
On June 2, 2009, a press release announced that the combined CenturyTel/Embarq entity would be called CenturyLink. Denver-based Monigle Associates was retained to formulate the new brand strategy. The acquisition was completed on July 1, 2009.
On October 19, 2009, CenturyTel and Embarq brandings were retired, and all business was officially conducted under the CenturyLink banner, continuing to trade on the NYSE under the CenturyTel stock ticker CTL. The new corporate name, CenturyLink, Inc., did not become official until May 2010.
On April 22, 2010, CenturyLink (at this point still legally known as CenturyTel, Inc.) announced it would acquire Qwest in a stock-for-stock transaction. Under the agreement, CenturyLink would swap 0.1664 of its shares for each share of Qwest; as a result, CenturyLink shareholders prior to the merger wound up with 50.5% share of ownership in the combined company, while former Qwest shareholders gained the remaining 49.5%. The valuation of CenturyLink's purchase was $12 billion. The merger was completed on April 1, 2011.
The addition of Qwest allowed CenturyLink to become the third largest telecommunications company in the United States, and the largest landline phone provider in the state of Colorado. The new company has 17 million access lines, 5 million broadband customers, and 1.4 million video subscribers across 37 states. The merger also made CenturyLink owner of one of the so-called Baby Bells; Qwest included what was once US West, the Baby Bell for most of the northwestern United States.
On July 15, 2011, CenturyLink acquired Savvis, Inc., a global provider of cloud infrastructure and hosted IT solutions for $2 billion, which represented all outstanding shares of Savvis common stock at $40 per share. This acquisition allowed CenturyLink to provide expanded managed hosting and cloud services.
On December 4, 2012, CenturyLink launched an integrated suite of cloud services called savvisdirect. Savvisdirect was an expansion of CenturyLink’s portfolio of Savvis cloud services and includes cloud application hosting, cloud servers, cloud storage, and private cloud for small businesses, IT admins and developers. CenturyLink later shuttered the savvisdirect subsidiary; consolidating their cloud service offerings internally.
On October 16, 2012 Savvis acquired to ITO Business Division of Ciber thereby adding managed services to the portfolio.
On June 14, 2013, CenturyLink announced the acquisition of AppFog, a Portland-based Platform as a Service used by over 100,000 developers to automate the deployment of software on public clouds such as Amazon Web Services and OpenStack.
On November 19, 2013, CenturyLink announced the acquisition of Tier 3, a Seattle-based infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform, and advanced cloud management company based on Cloud Foundry.
On December 11, 2014, CenturyLink announced the acquisition of Cognilytics, a predictive analytics and big data solution provider.
On October 31, 2016, CenturyLink announced its intent to acquire Level 3 Communications in a deal valued at around $25 billion.
CenturyLink offers voice and data communications, as well as television and home security services. CenturyLink's local and long distance voice communications is POTS. CenturyLink's data communication is through DSL, Metro Ethernet, MPLS, ATM, and Frame Relay over fiber optics and copper DS-3 and T-1 lines. The company also offers bundling with Verizon Wireless.
CenturyLink offers a fiber-optic based IPTV service named Prism TV in select markets. In areas where Prism TV is not available, CenturyLink partners with DirecTV. CenturyLink formerly offered Dish Network bundles to their customers, a remnant from the company's days before its acquisition of Qwest. In May 2014, CenturyLink reported that it had nearly 200,000 Prism TV subscribers.
CenturyLink Fiber is a fiber to the premises service in the United States, providing broadband Internet and Prism TV to a small and slowly growing number of locations. The service was first introduced to Omaha, Nebraska, and next rolled out to Las Vegas, Nevada, with plans for expansion to several other markets. Unlike the company's existing high speed Internet deployments, which utilize fiber-to the node/neighborhood to increase the speed of DSL up to 40 Mbit/s with ADSL+ or VDSL2 technology, in these markets CenturyLink now installs their fiber optic cable all the way to the home or business with speeds up to 1,000 Mbit/s download and 1,000 Mbit/s upload using Calix Optical Network Terminals. On Feb. 2, 2014, CenturyLink announced the availability of Gigabit fiber service to multi-tenant businesses in Salt Lake City and surrounding communities. On Aug. 5, 2014, CenturyLink announced the expansion of its gigabit fiber service to 16 additional markets. On Sep, 15, 2015, CenturyLink announced the expansion of its gigabit fiber service to residential and business customers in six additional states, increasing the company's service coverage to select areas of 17 states.
** Citizens of these communities disputes this data. CenturyLink has provided fiber backbone to some areas, but most customers in these areas are not even served with basic broadband. The local broadband committee was unable to find any residential houses with fiber to the house.
CenturyLink currently operates 55 data centers in North America, Asia Pacific, and Europe, and is the second largest retail colocation provider in the US. The company is currently constructing 3 new data centers in Chicago, IL, Minneapolis, MN, and Irvine, CA.
The combined company's 37-state service area is organized into five regions and led by region presidents. The region presidents are responsible for revenue, customer retention, customer satisfaction and service delivery throughout their local markets. The regions, region presidents, region headquarters locations, and states within each region are:CenturyLink Arena Boise – Boise, Idaho (formerly Bank of America Centre and Qwest Arena)
CenturyLink Center – Bossier City, Louisiana (formerly Bossier City Arena and CenturyTel Center)
CenturyLink Center Omaha – Omaha, Nebraska (formerly Qwest Center)
CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Washington (formerly Qwest Field)
CenturyLink Sports Complex and Hammond Stadium - Fort Myers, Florida (Spring Training for Minnesota Twins)
Colorado College Tigers
National Western Stock Show and Rodeo
Broadmoor World Arena
New Mexico State Aggies
New Mexico Mustangs
The Federal Communications Commission ordered CenturyLink to pay a record $16 million for failing to alert authorities of a preventable programming error that left nearly 11 million people in seven states without access to emergency services for six hours in 2014.