California cable lobby pushes "the bounds of acceptable behavior"

10 June 2016 by Steve Blum
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Not the way it’s done.

A last minute, behind-the-scenes attempt by the California Cable and Telecommunications Association (CCTA) – the lobbying front for the cable industry in Sacramento – to derail affordable broadband service in public housing failed yesterday. The California Public Utilities Commission voted 4 to 1 to approve grants for low cost or free broadband facilities in a dozen public housing communities where cable companies offer far more expensive service. Comcast and Charter Communications had earlier protested the grant applications.

Those protests, though, were dismissed last month in a draft resolution approving the grants. Following the usual – and perfectly legal – public procedure, Charter Communications submitted written objections, which were again rejected in a revised draft which was published on Wednesday. That prompted CCTA’s lobbying effort, which drew sharp criticism from commissioner Mike Florio…

I’m supportive of the resolution and, frankly, a little troubled by the late afternoon phone calls. This item has been out for comment for a month and to get a call the night before the meeting saying please hold it, when comments have already been submitted and addressed, I think is pushing the bounds of appropriate behavior…

[The public housing program] is really an adoption program, in the sense that people may have physical access but be unable to afford it. Through these very modest grants…many more people will be able to access the internet, we can bridge the digital divide, which is state and commission policy to address this. I think this is the right approach.

Florio was joined by commissioners Carla Peterman, Liane Randolph and Catherine Sandoval in voting to approve the twelve grants and, in the process, confirm that it’s CPUC policy to subsidise low cost or free broadband service in public housing communities, even when more costly, market rate alternatives are available. Commission president Michael Picker disagreed, and was the only no vote.