Time running out for CPUC to maximise federal bang for California broadband bucks

20 October 2020 by Steve Blum
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So far, the California Public Utilities Commission isn’t budging on its nonsensical plan to decide after the upcoming federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund reverse auction whether it will offer cash incentives to Internet service providers that might be bidding for broadband service and infrastructure subsidies for Californian communities.

Instead, it’s taking comments on a plan drafted by staff. Not comments from the general public though. Only those who file the necessary paperwork to become a “party” to the “proceeding” have a say. I did that on behalf of the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, and observed that offering ISPs money before they bid creates an incentive to do so more aggressively, but giving them money after they bid is just, well, giving them money…

The incentive value of the proposed [cash supplement] will be greatly diminished, and the objective of motivating organizations to submit bids that are lower – i.e. more competitive vis a vis other States – will not be achieved. Instead, any [California Advanced Services Fund] subsidy that is ultimately awarded to successful bidders will merely reimburse them for costs they would have otherwise paid out of their own funds. It will be a gift of public money without the compensatory benefit of more broadband infrastructure and service upgrades for more Californians than would have otherwise occurred…

No additional authority or direction is required to implement the Staff Proposal. Indeed, to engage in a lengthy and litigious deliberative process is to defy explicit directives to immediately implement an RDOF incentive program from both the California Legislature and the [CPUC].

Comments on the staff’s proposal filed by other organisations, whether or not accepted into the official record, are below. Replies and rebuttals are due Thursday. A decision on whether to approve the plan as is, modify it or scrap it entirely will likely come in December. The Federal Communication Commission’s RDOF auction takes place on 29 October 2020.

Correction: replies are due on Thursday, 22 October 2020, not 20 October 2020. The change has been made above.

Comments on CPUC Staff Proposal on State-Federal Broadband Infrastructure Funds Leveraging, Rulemaking 20-08-021, published 1 October 2020

California Emerging Technology Fund
Central Coast Broadband Consortium
CPUC public advocates office
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Greenlining Institute and TURN
National Diversity Coalition
North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium
Rural County Representatives of California
Small LECs, aka independent rural telephone companies