CPUC extends CASF grant deadline, also orders telecoms companies to disclose covid-19 response plans

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Broadband companies will get an extra month to submit applications for broadband infrastructure grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). Originally, the proposals were due next week, on 1 April 2020. That deadline is now 4 May 2020, and the subsequent timeline for challenges and decisions also bumped by five weeks, per a memo from California Public Utilities Commission director Alice Stebbins.

It’s a necessary step (and – full disclosure – one I advocated for). As the corona virus lockdown continues, residential broadband service is the critical link that connects Californians to their jobs, businesses, education and health services, and helps keep them from going stir crazy. CASF infrastructure project proposals have taken a back seat to the frontline tasks of keeping Internet access running and scaling it up to meet ballooning demand.

The divide between California’s digital haves and have nots is starkly illuminated by the emergency. A month to rethink priorities and figure out how best to target those gaps is both necessary and welcome. The memo also reminds us that a second CASF application window is possible. A decision on that will come by 17 June 2020, when we will have a much better idea of the full extent of the current crisis.

In another action, the CPUC ordered executives of major telephone, cable and mobile broadband companies to provide…

Your company’s policies for responding to and continuing operations through the current spread of COVID–19. This should include policies relating to providing safe working environments for your employees and business continuity plans for continuing all business and service delivery operations in the event of further community transmission.

Among the specific items they have to address are credit and collection practices and call center management. As I learned the hard way this weekend, AT&T slashed technical support and other customer service operations (someone needs to explain teleworking to them). It will be interesting to learn if other industry players did the same. The companies are supposed to provide a public version of their filing, but they’ll also be allowed to keep some information confidential. They’re supposed to respond by Friday.