CPUC slaps down Charter’s bid to monopolise low income housing, says owner has “right to choose”

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

John wayne slap

Northern Valley Catholic Social Service (NVCSS) builds, owns and operates more than a dozen public housing communities in the northern Sacramento Valley. It applied for a public housing broadband facilities grant from the California Advanced Services Fund for a new project in Redding, which prompted strident objections from Charter Communications.

Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission approved the grant and told Charter that it can’t block broadband subsidies for low income residents just because it happens in the neighborhood…

In its application, NVCSS stated that the Woodlands II project is a planned low-income housing development (new construction) and not wired for broadband internet. Since then, the housing development has been under construction and to date, the framing of the development is complete. As such, the building is under construction and not wired for broadband internet and therefore no housing units in the project are being offered broadband internet service. Consequently…the project is an unserved housing development…

Accepting Charter’s interpretation that the statute and guidelines require a physically existing “housing unit” for a development to be eligible for [Broadband Public Housing Account (BPHA)] funding, would contradict the statutory intent and overall goal of the program. Indeed, the purpose of the BPHA is to close the digital gap in public housing communities and to address a critical need to connect residents of publicly subsidized properties to high-speed internet…The funds in the BPHA help further this goal by approving projects which are beneficial to low-income residents who would otherwise be without broadband…

Whether Charter “can or will serve” does not mean that it does, in fact, serve the development…

A property owner has the right to choose the entity it wants to install facilities for the broadband network on its property while the building is under construction. NVCSS is not required to use Charter’s services just because Charter is serving the building on the adjacent property. Here, NVCSS has chosen to install the facilities itself.

The vote to approve the $36,000 grant was unanimous, and passed without any comment from commissioners.