California cable lobby to CPUC: we're in charge, not you

12 June 2014 by Steve Blum
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Lobbyists for the California cable industry want to rewrite broadband subsidy rules to give cable companies the right to say yea or nay to proposed infrastructure upgrade projects, instead of the California Public Utilities Commission.

That’s the gist of comments filed yesterday by the California Cable & Telecommunications Association, (CCTA) regarding new rules for the CASF broadband infrastructure subsidy program

In order for the Commission to provide for a true right of first refusal specific to a project, the rules would necessarily provide the opportunity to the existing provider to demonstrate that it will, within a reasonable timeframe, upgrade existing service for a project area for which a grant has been sought.

What they’re referring to is a law passed last year that, among other things, gave independent Internet service providers the ability to apply for grants and loans from the California Advanced Services Fund…

…after any existing facilities-based provider has an opportunity to demonstrate to the commission that it will, within a reasonable timeframe, upgrade existing service.

This provision has been characterised by many, including me, as a right of first refusal. As others have pointed out (h/t to Jim Warner at UCSC), it’s at best a convenient shorthand description and not a strict application of legal terminology. In reality, it gives existing providers the right to make the first proposal to upgrade their facilities in an underserved area.

The CCTA’s comments continue on for several pages in the same vein, claiming that what the California legislature has enacted and the CPUC has proposed doesn’t really say what it says, instead offering several pages of an alternative reality that suits the corporate needs of cable companies, but doesn’t do much for the millions of Californians they hold captive with ageing broadband infrastructure.