FCC-funded rural broadband experiments have to walk the legacy telephone line

Eligible areas in the Golden State.

With the deadline for what the FCC is calling expressions of interest in its rural broadband experiments coming up fast – a week from Friday, on 7 March 2014 – the California Public Utilities Commission has put together some helpful tools for prospective applicants.

The list includes…

According the CPUC’s summary, it’s open season on territory served by the big guys, but to get FCC money to do a rural broadband experiment in an area served by a small rural telco, the commission will have to “find that the designation is in the public interest”.

The summary reiterates a key restriction on who may apply for the grants…

Entities selected to receive funding in an experiment must obtain [Eligible Telecommunications Carriers] designation from either a State commission or the Commission…Entities may obtain ETC designation after being selected for the award of Connect America funding.

In order to get funded, broadband experiments have to include voice service, because that’s what the source of the money – the Connect America Fund – supports…

As an ETC, it would be required to provide the supported service – voice telephony – at rates reasonably comparable to rates for similar services in urban areas.

The FCC is planning to hold a workshop – presumably online – further explaining the program next month. It’s to be hoped that it’ll be prior to the deadline for expressions of interest, but so far I haven’t seen an announcement regarding details yet (but if anyone has, please pitch in to the discussion below).