Constructive ideas (mostly) offered for Californian broadband subsidy plan

14 June 2014 by Steve Blum
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Except for a couple of not so veiled threats of legal action, the comments submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission regarding a new plan to re-start the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) program were generally positive, with few specific recommendations for changes. The nastiness came from the cable industry’s lobbyists in Sacramento – the California Cable and Telecommunications Association – and Verizon (more on that tomorrow).

Comments from other incumbent telephone companies – with the glaring exception of AT&T, which didn’t submit any – were more nuanced. A group of 13 small rural telephone companies filed a joint letter asking for some useful clarifications regarding current procedures – essentially checking to make sure nothing else was changing – and asking for more than the 6 months proposed to upgrade underserved areas, given that many of them serve mountain communities where precious little construction work can happen in the designated October to April timeframe. Frontier Communications, another primarily rural telco, also wants more time, if federal grants are involved.

Several regional broadband consortia weighed in. I’ve already written about the Central Coast Broadband Consortium’s submission, which was done jointly with Central Sierra Connect. Representatives from the Redwood Coast, the Connected Capitol and LA County consortia filed comments along the same lines, going into greater detail about key issues like affordability, accountability of incumbents and competing applicants alike and the status of tribal governments. Four other consortia – Inland Empire, Upstate, Eastern Sierra and Tahoe – asked to add more communities to the priority list included in the draft resolution.

The CPUC’s office of ratepayer advocates made several recommendations – not dissimilar to those submitted by consortia – that would make it harder for incumbents to “game the system” and prevent competitors from getting CASF subsidies.

Finally, Tom West, who is now the manager of the North Coast consortium but filed comments as an individual, took issue with the way the commission determines if a given area is eligible for CASF funding. That is indeed a serious issue, but it’s way outside the scope of the new draft rules that are on the table – it’s a separate problem.

Anyone can submit reply comments, but if you’re interested, do it fast – those are due on Monday.

Draft resolution proposing new CASF rules, 27 May 2014

Senate Bill 740, as signed by Governor Brown

Comments from…

Central Coast Broadband Consortia and Central Sierra Connect

California Cable & Telecommunications Association

California Center for Rural Policy/Redwood Coast RBC

CPUC Office of Ratepayer Advocates

Frontier Communications

Inland Empire Regional Broadband Consortium

Kern River Valley Revitalization/Eastern Sierra Connect RBC

Los Angeles County Regional Broadband Consortia

Rural telephone companies

Tahoe Basin Project

Tom West/North Bay/North Coast RBC

Upstate California Connect Consortium

Valley Vision/Connected Capital Area RBC