Continued CPUC backpedaling on net neutrality draws activist fire

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*”Okay, I got it.”*

The decision to pull network neutrality and the possibility of regulating broadband infrastructure as a common carrier off the table at the California Public Utilities Commission provoked harsh criticism from advocacy group representatives who showed up at yesterday’s meeting expecting to be in the discussion.

Tracy Rosenberg, the executive director of Oakland-based Media Alliance said that commissioners let down the 3,200 people who sent in comments via her website alone..

They are very disappointed by your action this morning. Not just disappointed because you did not decide to go ahead and provide the authorization [to offer an opinion to the FCC], although it is very important for the California Public Utilities Commission to weigh in on issues that affect public utilities. But I think they are even more disappointed by the fact that you didn’t even bring the item up for a discussion and for a vote. That is disrespectful to all of these people who told you how they felt, what they wanted and what was important to them. There’s been no public explanation for the withdrawal, there’s been no public discourse on the subject from the commission. What’s going on here folks?

Lame duck CPUC president Michael Peevey didn’t offer any explanation for the retreat. The only commissioner who addressed the subject at all was Catherine Sandoval, who announced that she sent the FCC remarks she made to a congressional committee about net neutrality…

My testimony highlights the use of the internet by utilities who have been designated by President Obama as critical infrastructure and thus the importance of openness, low barriers to entry and reliability and my concern that individualised negotiations that the FCC would specifically authorise to discriminate between different users would increase barriers to entry in a fashion that also would be contradictory to the mission of utilities to provide safe, reliable service at just and reasonable rates.

Individualised negotiations is Sandoval’s polite term for FCC chair Tom Wheeler’s no lobbyist left behind plan to work out any pesky traffic management complaints behind closed doors with his buddies.

The CPUC can revisit net neutrality and broadband regulation anytime it wants. So far though, there’s no indication that it will.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.