I got that completely wrong: satellite is allowed with a lower service hurdle by new Californian subsidy rules

21 January 2014 by Steve Blum
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Satellite gets a boost, actually.

Contrary to what I posted yesterday, satellite-based Internet service providers would be eligible for broadband infrastructure subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) under new eligibility rules proposed earlier this month. In fact, the new language appears to makes it easier for satellite providers to qualify for CASF grants and loans. (H/T to Tom Glegola at CPUC for gently pointing out my error).

The draft decision, authored by commission president Michael Peevey, strikes out language now in effect that specifically includes satellite in the list of eligible technologies. The new text simply refers to “fixed or wireless facilities”, in the context of “the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) definition of a facilities-based broadband service provider”, and then references that definition via a footnote. If – as I should have – I had read the technical appendix in the cited document, it would have been clear that satellite is simply considered one of many wireless broadband technologies.

Since the old specific language would be deleted and replaced by definitions that treat all wireless technologies alike, it arguably becomes easier for satellite service to qualify for CASF subsidies: satellite ISPs would no longer have to “prove functionality”. Although that term was not specifically defined, it could reasonably be interpreted as requiring satellite broadband to be as functional in terms of speed and, critically, data caps as terrestrial service. That standard, whatever it meant, would no longer apply.

My mistake was to ignore the footnote and assume that “fixed or wireless” meant fixed or mobile, because the CPUC’s mapping taxonomy sorts service providers into three categories: fixed (with subcategories of wireless and wireline), mobile and satellite. But it’s no defence to try to claim the language is vague – the footnoted NTIA document removes all ambiguity. The new wording is what matters. It overrides any assumptions based on the current program. Which I shouldn’t have made in the first place. My apologies for any confusion or consternation I caused.