In the face of “environmental and social justice” obligations, Comcast attempts retreat from rural service

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tesoro viejo 2

Comcast wants to give up its campaign to compete with a small rural telephone company – a rural local exchange carrier (RLEC) – in a high end, new development outside of Fresno. After the California Public Utilities Commission decided to allow such wireline voice competition if the would be competitor serves the greater community and not just wealthy exurbanites, Comcast asked to withdraw its request for permission to go head to head with Ponderosa Telephone in the Tesoro Viejo development.

No reason was given for the retreat, just a simple statement that Comcast “has determined that it will not, at this time, pursue expansion of its certificate of public convenience and necessity to include Ponderosa’s service territory”. But it’s easy to connect the dots:

  • Comcast adamantly refuses to voluntarily engage with the CPUC on any issue for any reason, lest it become entangled in regulatory obligations.
  • To enter an RLEC’s territory, the CPUC decided that Comcast or any other competitive wireline voice service provider has to promise to serve the same ratio of residential to commercial and low income to affluent customers as the RLEC they’re targeting.
  • The CPUC administrative law managing the case, Zhen Zhang, asked Comcast to comment on how its entry into Ponderosa’s territory would impact “achievement of any of any of the nine goals of the commission’s environmental and social justice action plan”.
  • Comcast decides to abandon that attempt.

In response, Zhang cancelled a hearing on the matter, but didn’t say whether or not she would grant Comcast’s never mind motion.

The big question that’s still to be answered is whether Comcast intends to do an end run around California’s telephone service regulations and provide phone service by other means in Tesoro Viejo. It’s installing its lines and equipment as construction proceeds in the development, and is offering broadband and video service to residents. Comcast also insists that the CPUC doesn’t have any jurisdiction over phone service using voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology.

Again, it’s not hard to connect the dots.