Oops, Charter proves it can't serve public housing residents

20 February 2015 by Steve Blum
, , ,

Okay, people, you have to tell me these things, alright? I’ve been frozen for 30 years, okay?

In a self-defeating gesture, Charter Communications is challenging four public housing broadband grant applications made to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF).

Charter claims residents at four complexes – two in Long Beach and two in San Bernardino – can buy Internet service at speeds in the 100 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload range.

Unfortunately for Charter, it doesn’t really matter.

CASF rules for public housing are different from those for the general public. It’s a lot easier for a public housing project to qualify for a broadband facilities grant. As the rules adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission state, in the end, it doesn’t really matter if an incumbent is already providing service…

[Publicly-supported housing communities] without wiring will receive priority over PSCs which already have wiring, but both entities are eligible for these funds.

Worst case, the four challenged projects will be delayed a few months (assuming there isn’t a flood of applications in April). But arguably, it’s not enough just to have wiring – or service – in the building…

The applicant will have the opportunity to rebut the challenge by showing with adequate documentation that services are not available to 100 percent of residents, or that although the units may have wiring to support broadband Internet service, residents do not subscribe to that service.

Helpfully, Charter volunteers that not all residents are broadband subscribers. In fact, most aren’t. According to Charter’s filing, of the 101 units included in the four projects, only 29 buy broadband service.

That’s a 29% take rate. Which is less than half the Californian average of 74%.

Neither the applicants nor Charter provided any market research as to why the broadband adoption rate in those complexes is so dismal. But it’s a fair guess that the primary reason is the combination of low household incomes and high cable broadband prices.

Far from debunking claims made by the applicants, Charter has provided conclusive proof that, speed requirements aside, the CASF public housing program is dead on target.