Tag Archives: sb1058

It’s not just about 911. Twitter is emergency communication too, CPUC decides

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

In emergencies, broadband service is as important for connecting people to lifesaving information as telephone service is for reaching 911 centers. That’s effectively what the California Public Utilities Commission decided yesterday when it unanimously approved disaster preparedness requirements for wireless companies.

Those new rules require wireless companies to make sure their networks stay up for at least 72 hours after electric service goes down. The capabilities they have to maintain for their customers include “the ability to receive emergency alerts and notification”, which isn’t limited to reverse 911 calls, and “basic internet browsing during a disaster or commercial power outage”.

That’s because social media and other real time communication delivered via the Internet are integral to communications during an emergency, such as the wildfires that have swept through California in the past few years, commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves explained…

We’re not just talking about the ability to call 911. We’re talking about the ability to receive those alerts. Just as we sit here, I received an alert from the governor’s new order and how it implicates Sacramento County, on covid. Having all the social media networks that are used for providing customers and Californians this information – as you know, during many of the events, Twitter was used as a main source of information – so, a basic necessity for that Internet data service is such a key component. And it’s something that we’re going to, I’m sure, have to monitor to ensure that is provided to all Californians during these disasters and emergency times.

Where the rules go from here is an open question. Mobile carriers claim that the CPUC has no authority to impose network management requirements, because federal law gives that job to the Federal Communications Commission. The CPUC’s response is that states have broad authority when public safety is involved, and there’s nothing in federal law that preempts that power just because wireless telecommunications are involved.

The plain language of the new back up power and network resiliency requirements is not limited to mobile carriers, although the context of the decision is. Whether wireless Internet service providers – WISPs – will also have to comply, and what the corresponding obligations for wireline companies will be are also questions left for later.

Nothing guaranteed in disasters warning added to wireless resiliency plan as CPUC preps to vote

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

“There are certain disasters where it will be impossible to maintain wireless service, including during extended commercial power outages”, according to a draft decision set for a vote tomorrow by the California Public Utilities Commission. The revised version of emergency preparedness rules for “facilities-based wireless providers” proposed by CPUC president Marybel Batjer was posted on Monday, after reviewing dozens of comments submitted by a wide range of companies, industry lobbyists, consumer groups and others.

The original version of Batjer’s proposed decision obligated mobile carriers and, arguably, any other company offering wireless telecoms services to install back up generators, unless “objectively impossible”, at most facilities, and maintain a basic level of service during disasters, including “access to Internet browsing for emergency notices”. It still does that, but it now acknowledges that 100% coverage, 100% of the time regardless of circumstances isn’t going to happen in the real world.

The revision also requires wireless providers to “identify the basis” for claiming that it’s impossible to install back up power at a particular location, and “discuss actions being taken” to “mitigate service loss”.

Otherwise, the revised draft mostly polishes up some of the language in the first draft, and adds some additional case law support for its conclusions, particularly the fundamental finding that the CPUC has the authority to do what it proposes to do.

The response from telecommunications companies can be summed up as you can’t do that to us. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and the Sacramento lobbying front organisation for the cable industry, among others, argued in comments submitted earlier this month that the CPUC doesn’t have authority to impose network management obligations on wireless carriers, or wireline companies, such as cable operators, that it doesn’t otherwise regulate.

“The Commission does not have jurisdiction to mandate the provision of interstate, information services such as internet browsing”, Verizon wrote in its comments. AT&T claimed that “the proposed decision regulates in a field that is exclusively federal”. T-Mobile and the lobbyists deployed by Comcast, Charter Communications and other cable operators sang the same song.

The Wireless Industry Association (WIA), a lobbying organisation for tower owners, construction companies and others who provide infrastructure rather than the service that rides on it, didn’t get the clarification it requested. Pointing out, as I did, that it uses mobile carriers as examples but doesn’t explicitly limit its definition of wireless providers to them, the WIA asked the CPUC to “clarify” that back up power requirements only apply to “macro cell sites”.

No dice. The revised draft passed up the opportunity to narrow the scope of its disaster readiness requirements. It can still be read as applying to wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), at least under certain circumstances, and maybe always.

Faster standards for broadband subsidies head to California senate floor, two other key bills killed

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Cruzio fiber build 625

A bill to raise California’s minimum broadband speed standard and subsidise fiber to the premise infrastructure was blessed by the California senate’s appropriations committee yesterday. But the bill was amended and the changes haven’t been published yet. Two other bills that would have put emergency preparedness and response obligations on all Internet service providers were killed behind closed doors by senate leadership.

Senate bill 1130, authored by Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles), would raise the eligibility standard for broadband infrastructure subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to 25 Mbps download/25 Mbps upload speeds, from the current pathetic level of 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up.

Any community, or area within a community, that lacks broadband service at or above the eligibility standard – 6/1 now, maybe 25/25 soon – would be able to get money from CASF to upgrade broadband infrastructure to a higher service. Now, that level is an equally pathetic 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up, which has allowed Frontier Communications to take millions of dollars from CASF for marginal DSL upgrades. Much of the arm wrestling over SB 1130 is about what the new construction standard would be – it began at 100 Mbps down and up, and has since slid to 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up. Which is lower than the eligibility standard. Yesterday’s amendments might have resolved that paradox. Might.

SB 1058, by Ben Hueso (D – San Diego) and SB 1069, by Hannah-Beth Jackson (D – Santa Barbara) were aimed at solving some of the problems that have plagued emergency officials during wildfires and public safety power shutoffs during the past few years. Among other things, both would have treated all ISPs the same. Cable companies, mobile carriers and others that have carved out comfortable privileges and immunities for themselves, usually with big cash payments to lawmakers. They opposed SB 1058 and SB 1069 and may have gotten their money’s worth yesterday.

Cable companies, including Charter Communications and Comcast, are using their Sacramento lobbying front to oppose the higher standards in SB 1130 as well. They want to block any hint of a threat to their high speed broadband monopolies. The next stop for SB 1130, whatever the amended version turns out to be, is a vote by the full California senate.

CPUC “wireless resiliency” plan targets mobile carriers, doesn’t exempt WISPs

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Cpuc fire threat map 11jun2020

Click for the interactive fire threat map.

Mobile carriers – AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile – will have to install emergency generators at their cell sites in high fire danger areas, if the California Public Utilities Commission approves a draft decision offered last week by president Marybel Batjer. They’ll also have to meet other requirements intended to insure “wireless resiliency” during emergencies, natural or man-made, including public safety power shut-offs.

The proposed rules would apply to “facilities-based wireless providers” and require them “to maintain a minimum level of service and coverage to provide access to 911, 211, to receive emergency notifications, and access web browsing for emergency notices”.

As it’s commonly used in the industry, and by the CPUC when it refers to “broadband providers”, “facility-based” is a term that includes fixed wireless Internet service providers (WISPs). The hundred-plus page draft doesn’t explicitly limit its definition of facilities-based wireless providers to mobile carriers, although the context clearly does. There’s no mention of WISPs and the legalese leans heavily on the CPUC’s authority over telephone service, even to the point of anachronistically asserting “the public has an expectation that they will hear a dial tone on their wireless device”.

On the other hand, if the intent was to apply the rules specifically to mobile carriers – a jurisdictionally fraught notion – it would have been relatively simple to do so. Instead, the draft cites the CPUC’s role in regulating 911 services (which can be delivered via mobile and VoIP technology), issuing licenses – certificates of public convenience and necessity (CPCNs) – to telecoms companies of all kinds, and its “broad jurisdiction” over “other communications utilities”.

Going forward, it could be argued that a WISP that holds a CPCN or offers VoIP service – or maybe just provides “web browsing for emergency notices” – also must meet wireless resiliency standards. There’s no clear authority for the CPUC to regulate WISPs as such, and it hasn’t done so. The proposed decision pushes further into the grey area, though.

More clarity could be on the way. Senate bill 1058 would extend emergency service obligations to “every Internet service provider” in California. We’ll know later this week whether Californian legislative leaders deem it worthy of consideration by the full senate. And the CPUC is just getting started. The proposed wireless resiliency order says a future commission decision “will consider promulgating resiliency requirements for other telecommunications providers”.

Wireless resiliency, according to the draft, means…

The ability to recover from or adjust to adversity or change through an array of strategies including, but not limited to: backup power, redundancy, network hardening, temporary facilities, communication and coordination with other utilities, emergency responders, the public and finally, preparedness planning.

Specifically, wireless providers would have to install back-up power capable of keeping their networks up for at least 72 hours, but only in the parts of their service areas that are classified as “tier 2 and tier 3 high fire threat districts”. As the CPUC’s interactive map shows, that includes most of the California coast, the Sierra Nevada, the Cascades and large swaths of the southland.

All wireless providers, not just those in high fire threat areas, would have to file resiliency plans “that detail their ability to maintain a minimum level of service and coverage during a disaster or a commercial power grid outage”, as well as “annual emergency operations plans”.

The commission could vote on the proposed rules as soon as mid-July. In the meantime, it’ll be accepting public comments on the draft.

Proposed Decision of Commissioner Batjer Adopting Wireless Provider Resiliency Strategies, 11 June 2020

Cable, mobile companies fight rollback of perks they’ve paid California lawmakers big bucks to write

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Special privileges that cable companies and mobile carriers have bought from the California legislature over the years could be rolled back a bit if two bills approved by the California senate’s energy, utilities and communications (EU&C) committee make it into law.

Senate bill 1058, authored by Ben Hueso (D – San Diego), would require “every Internet service provider” (as the legislative counsel’s digest put it) to “file an annual emergency operations plan” with the California Public Utilities Commission. Besides information about emergency operations and contact information for state and local officials, as currently written the bill effectively requires ISPs to offer “an affordable class of broadband Internet service” to people locked down or displaced by a disaster and to provide “capital expenditure plans for broadband expansion” to the CPUC annually.

Every ISP means just that. Any “business that provides broadband Internet access service” to any customer will have to comply. That prospect upset lobbyists for cable companies and mobile carriers, particularly. Their Sacramento front organisations led the opposition to the bill. Despite that, it was approved on a 10 to 3 party line vote.

SB 1069, carried by Hannah-Beth Jackson (D – Santa Barbara), is a bit more subtle, but will be equally, if not more, disruptive to the cozy regulatory carve outs that lobbyists for mobile carriers, like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, and cable companies, like Comcast, Charter Communications and Cox, have paid millions of dollars to lawmakers over the years to create and preserve.

On its face, the bill requires “telecommunications service” providers to deliver more and better information about “critical communications infrastructure” to state and local officials during a disaster. But it also ropes ISPs and broadband networks, respectively, into those categories by expanding the definition of telecommunications service to include voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service and the infrastructure – i.e. broadband networks – that carry it. That also brought howls of protest from the cable and mobile minions, who rightly fear that the change will breach the regulatory firewall between themselves and legacy copper telephone companies that they’ve spent so much money building.

It’s just a chip in the firewall, though. The Federal Communications Commission and, so far, federal courts perpetuate the fiction that identical functionality is a “telecommunications service” when provided via one type of technology – legacy telco copper – but is an “information service” when delivered over another type – Internet protocol-based broadband systems.

Both bills, along with SB 1130, which upgrades California minimum broadband standard to symmetrical 25 Mbps download and upload speeds, head to the California senate appropriations committee. The real work of the appropriations committee is done behind closed doors by legislative leadership, which makes it the preferred killing ground for bills that offend cash laden lobbyists.

Five telecoms bills cling to life in the California legislature as deadlines pass

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Compressed deadlines at the California legislature will leave several telecommunications bills for dead, as attention turns toward the 15 June 2020 constitutionally mandated date for passing the annual state budget. With weeks taken out of the normal schedule by the covid–19 lockdown, and committee work hampered by social distancing and quarantine measures, far fewer bills are expected to make it out of the Sacramento sausage machine this year.

Four bills are moving ahead: senate bill 1130, a broadband subsidy bill I wrote about last Wednesday, two bills that lean into broadband regulation – SB 1058 and SB 1069 – that I’ll write about later, and assembly bill 2421, which would require local governments to fast track permit approvals for emergency generators needed to keep cell sites running.

All four bills are in the appropriations committees in their respective houses. Typically, appropriations committees give bills a short, pro forma hearing, and then put them on ice until legislative leaders meet behind closed doors to decide which ones will go forward.

A fifth bill is stalled in the telephone and cable company-friendly assembly communications and conveyances committee. SB 431. Introduced by senator Mike McGuire (D – Sonoma) and joined by Steven Glaser (D – Contra Costa), the bill would have given the California Public Utilities Commission the job of setting performance reliability standards for cell sites statewide and for all other telecoms infrastructure in high fire risk areas. To say the least, that’s not a welcome change for AT&T, Comcast, Charter and other monopoly model service providers. Because it began life in the senate last year, the deadline for moving out of the communications and conveyances committee is 31 July 2020.

With the caveat that death is never final at the California capitol and bills can be resurrected at any time, this year roadkill includes:

  • AB 2163. A well intentioned bill by assemblyman Robert Rivas (D – San Benito) to improve connectivity at fairgrounds throughout California, it stalled when the covid–19 lockdown sent lawmakers home.
  • SB 1206. Authored by senator Lena Gonzales (D – Los Angeles), it aimed to set a statewide standard for microtrenching, which involves installing fiber optic cables in narrow street cuts. Or not so narrow – the bill would have expanded the definition of microtrenching to a technically ridiculous eight-inch width. SB 1206 never made out of the senate’s in-box.