Tag Archives: ponderosa telephone company

Online ride sharing companies adapting to Californian rules

If Lyft’s customers were this happy before there were rules, just think how they must feel now.

California’s pioneering attempt to regulate online ride sharing services such as Lyft and Uber seems to be going as smoothly anyone could expect. The California Public Utilities Commission was briefed this morning on progress made since it adopted rules setting safety, training, insurance and other operational standards for transportation network companies, as it now calls them, including…

Obtain a permit from the [CPUC]…require criminal background checks for each driver, establish a driver training program, implement a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol, and require insurance coverage.

Five companies applied for permits, including Rasier, which is Uber’s California arm, Lyft, Wingz (formerly Tickengo), Sidecar and Summon (formerly InstantCab). Only Summon has made it though the process, with the other four still smoothing out rough spots in their applications.

As might be expected from entrepreneurial start ups, all five had innovative interpretations of what the regulations actually require. None proposed using traditional state-certified driving schools for their training programs, instead relying on various mixtures of online training and in person coaching. The CPUC hasn’t fully blessed those approaches – it kicked back Rasier’s original plan to just give drivers a list of schools – and plans to evaluate actual results in the fall.

Originally, these app-enabled companies tried to fly under the regulatory radar by claiming to only be connecting willing private individuals who were looking for casual rides. But as the businesses became more sophisticated it was increasingly difficult to maintain that position in the face of bitter opposition from taxi companies that were accustomed to leveraging local licensing rules to restrict competition and keep prices artificially high. After some initial skirmishing, including fines and cease and desist orders, the CPUC developed and approved the new rules last September.

In other actions, the CPUC delayed voting on three broadband projects proposed for subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund. The contentious Cressman proposal submitted by Ponderosa Telephone Company was bumped to April to comply with public notice laws and the two Surfnet projects were delayed two weeks, so they can be taken up at the same time as the related Sunesys project.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, including the Surfnet and Sunesys projects, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

CPUC commissioner proposes modest haircut for Cressman

Update 13 March 2014: The CPUC delayed the vote on the Cressman project to 10 April 2014.

It doesn’t have to look good to look better.

Commissioner Michel Florio wants to trim five homes from a project proposed by Ponderosa Telephone Company in Fresno County, and save the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) $373,000. The project in and around the remote community of Cressman has been stalled for months, at Florio’s request, and now it’s clear why

The fiber optic extension from Lower Cressman to…Rush Creek will cost $621,700, or 36% of the total project costs. This equates to CASF funding of $74,604 per household, more than 23 times the average funds per household of approved CASF grants, for the Rush Creek portion of the Cressman Project. The Commission considers this portion of the project unreasonably expensive since it would bring broadband access to only five additional households.

Ponderosa has drawn fire from Florio in the past. A proposal to spend, by one reckoning, $55,000 per household to provide fiber-to-the-shack service in the Beasore area of Madera County was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, but only after Florio dissented and provided graphic photos of the boarded up, snow bound buildings that were being claimed as homes in the area.

So he’s put a deal on the table: cut the five outlier homes from the project, allow Ponderosa to come back with a better plan to build out in the area (reaching more people in the process) and knock the per household tab of the overall project from $15,000 to $10,000. That’s still a hefty price – exceeded recently only by Ponderosa’s Beasore project – but it’s a worthy attempt to drag CASF priorities back towards the concept of providing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

The CPUC is scheduled to vote on Florio’s proposal this Thursday, 13 March 2014.