Back and forth, again, over eligibility for Californian broadband subsidies

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

The latest round of comments and counter comments on the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) review of broadband subsidy eligibility has closed. Two organisations filed replies to the comments filed a couple of weeks ago, the CPUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) and a consumer advocacy group, the Utility Reform Network (TURN). DRA also weighed in a couple of weeks ago.

TURN repeated its support for allowing non-traditional organisations to apply for broadband infrastructure construction grants and loans from the California Advanced Services Fund. Currently, only registered and regulated telephone companies can apply. One point it made was that the CPUC should allow enough flexibility for different types of organisations, not just privately owned companies, to apply.

The Commission should also consider whether the performance bond for local governments who apply for CASF grants should be different than for private sector providers. As discussed in the reply comments of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance,

‘Local governments already have obligations to be transparent and are democratically accountable to the public. They already follow accepted accounting procedures and can be held accountable if they do not uphold the terms of any agreement made with CASF to expand access to the Internet within their jurisdiction. Similarly, cooperatives are regulated by member-owners,who themselves would be harmed by failure to expand access to the Internet.’

DRA once again came out strongly opposed to allowing anyone other than a traditional telephone company to apply for CASF funds.

DRA continues to urge the Commission not to expand CASF eligibility to unregulated entities. Instead, the Commission should focus on improving the cost-effectiveness and outcomes related to current CASF funding parameters.

Both filings discussed some of the more technical issues involved, such as what sort of performance bonds should be required and how the commission should enforce grant requirements.

A CPUC administrative law judge will now review all the filings, and offer his opinion to commissioners.