FCC-funded rural broadband experiments have to walk the legacy telephone line

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With the deadline for what the FCC is calling expressions of interest in its rural broadband experiments coming up fast – a week from Friday, on 7 March 2014 – the California Public Utilities Commission has put together some helpful tools for prospective applicants.

The list includes…

According the CPUC’s summary, it’s open season on territory served by the big guys, but to get FCC money to do a rural broadband experiment in an area served by a small rural telco, the commission will have to “find that the designation is in the public interest”.

The summary reiterates a key restriction on who may apply for the grants…

Entities selected to receive funding in an experiment must obtain [Eligible Telecommunications Carriers] designation from either a State commission or the Commission…Entities may obtain ETC designation after being selected for the award of Connect America funding.

In order to get funded, broadband experiments have to include voice service, because that’s what the source of the money – the Connect America Fund – supports…

As an ETC, it would be required to provide the supported service – voice telephony – at rates reasonably comparable to rates for similar services in urban areas.

The FCC is planning to hold a workshop – presumably online – further explaining the program next month. It’s to be hoped that it’ll be prior to the deadline for expressions of interest, but so far I haven’t seen an announcement regarding details yet (but if anyone has, please pitch in to the discussion below).

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.