New CPUC map eases the burden on CASF applicants

CPUC’s mobile broadband field testing results show lower-than-claimed performance and significant gaps.

The latest California interactive broadband availability map is up, and it has some pleasant surprises. Working with Chico State University, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) scrapped the Flash based platform it launched on last year and rebuilt it using modern technology. Performance is blazing.

Not so fast, though, are mobile broadband speeds around the state. At least not as fast as the mobile carriers would have you believe. The CPUC added its own mobile broadband field testing and modeling data to the map. A quick click back and forth between what the carriers claim and the CPUC’s real world results shows stark differences.

Another interesting addition is broadband adoption rates around the state. There are still some finishing touches to put on it, but knowing where people are actually signing up for broadband and where they can’t or won’t will be a boon to both independent ISPs looking for market opportunities and local policy makers who want to fill gaps.

In general, the data analysis tools are much smoother. I haven’t stress tested them yet but it’s not a wrestling match anymore. The CPUC is still tweaking things, but it seems completely usable as is. It even works on my iPad now.

The underlying data is from the CPUC’s Round 6 reporting cycle. That’s information that was provided by wireline, fixed wireless, mobile and satellite providers as of 30 June 2012. It’s already out of date – the Round 7 reporting window closed as of last Monday, 31 December 2012, although service providers have until the end of the month to submit the data.

But Round 6 is what the next batch of California Advanced Services Fund applications is supposed to be based on. Applicants have until 1 February 2013 to file. If this new broadband availability map says an area is underserved, it’s fair game. There is a gotcha: incumbent carriers get a chance to say otherwise, and they can use pretty much any information they have, whether its Round 7 or even more current data.

I like the new map and I’m looking forward to working with it. It’s going to make my job a lot easier.