Incumbents’ coalition of the unwilling fights fiber disclosure rule

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Broadband is outside the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission, and it has no business investigating competition – or the lack thereof – among Internet service providers. That’s the basic reaction from a “Respondent Coalition” of incumbent telephone and cable companies to a proposed CPUC decision that slams the lack of broadband competition in California and would take a few, small steps toward opening the market. A bit.

AT&T, Frontier, Comcast, Cox, Charter (along with its new acquisition, Time Warner Cable) and CCTA, the cable industry’s Sacramento mouthpiece, filed a response to the proposed decision on Monday. Predictably, they claim that 1. it’s against the law for the CPUC to collect information about broadband, and 2. even if it weren’t, there’s no need to do so because broadband service in California is so gosh darn wonderful and affordable. That’s how I boil down their 37 pages of comments anyway, you can read it for yourself here and come to your own conclusion.

One of the key items in the proposed decision is a requirement for companies that own middle mile fiber to submit annual reports about its location and whether or not it’s available to competitors and other users. This coalition of the unwilling said we can’t do that because…

Carriers do not generally maintain maps of “middle-mile” facilities, and providing such data to the Commission would be time-consuming, costly, and burdensome.

That’s an amazing and blatantly false statement. Companies that own middle mile fiber keep excruciatingly detailed records of their networks. Precise mapping data is even published by middle mile companies that actually want to sell dark fiber and/or wholesale bandwidth to all comers. It’s only the big incumbent carriers – the members of the coalition, in other words – that want to keep it secret and exploit their monopoly control to the maximum extent possible.

It’s this kind of predatory, anti-competitive behavior that the proposed decision specifically aims to counter. The CPUC should push ahead and adopt it.

Proposed decision analyzing the California telecommunications market and directing staff to continue data gathering, monitoring and reporting on the market, 18 October 2016

Respondent Coalition opening comments on the proposed decision, 7 November 2016
Google Fiber opening comments on the proposed decision, 7 November 2016
Office of Ratepayer Advocates opening comments on the proposed decision, 7 November 2016
The Utility Reform Network opening comments on the proposed decision, 7 November 2016