AT&T snarls but cable lobby embraces expansion of California broadband subsidies

10 April 2013 by Steve Blum
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But Austin is a peaceful planet!

The California cable lobby has stopped foaming at the mouth over the idea of expanding the list of companies and organizations that are eligible to apply for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) subsidies. In comments filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Cable and Telecommunications Association seems to have figured out that relaxing the rules gives them the chance to stick their nose in the honey jar too.

[N]on‐telephone corporations should not be essentially treated as a telephone utility as a condition of receiving a CASF award by having to contractually agree to comply with all of the Commission’s rules and regulations. This proposal adds costs and burdens to CASF compliance, and contradicts the goal of extending CASF funding to non‐telephone corporations to ensure that broadband facilities are ubiquitously available.

I’m glad the cable lobby energetically supports a diverse broadband ecology in California. Only a cynic would say this Damascene conversion has something to do with their push to convince California lawmakers to redirect CASF money toward signing up more subscribers rather than building more infrastructure.

Fortunately, I’m a cynic. Which also allows me to savor the blast of self serving double talk in AT&T’s filing. Boiled down, AT&T is saying it doesn’t want mere ISPs to get CASF money, but if they do, the CPUC should impose conditions that make it as difficult as possible for them to succeed. Like increasing the financial guarantees required if they build in an area that AT&T serves, presumably because AT&T intends to send the Death Star after them. You know, like Google in Austin.

The CPUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates submitted eight pages of angst over legislative uncertainty. A group of small rural telephone companies filed a brief that was largely on point and generally constructive. The comments were in response to proposed requirements floated by CPUC last month. Replies and rebuttals are due in a couple of weeks.