Verizon says chill out, only a million California homes have crap Internet

One million homes.

AT&T, Verizon and a posse of community broadband advocates joined the debate over eligibility requirements for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) grants and loans. The advocacy folks want fewer or no restrictions on who can apply for broadband infrastructure construction subsidies. The telcos like the current rules which limit the money to, well, telcos.

Like the cable lobby, the big telcos are most offended by the idea that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) might give money to competing providers in underserved areas, where broadband service doesn’t meet the minimum standard of 6 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up. In particular, Verizon doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about…

Underserved areas have 1,099,883 households, but only 62,887 of these households do not have broadband available under the 3/1mbps standard.

The 3 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up benchmark Verizon awkwardly cites was declared inadequate by the Commission back in February when it relaunched the CASF program.

AT&T (seconded by Verizon) hyperventilated about the danger local governments pose to honest competition…

Local governments administer rights-of-way in their jurisdiction. If they also are building broadband networks with CASF funds, the potential to discriminate against another provider exists and must be prevented as a condition of receiving funds.

As The Utility Reform Network (TURN) pointed out in its reply to similar comments by the cable lobby

This concern is overblown given that such actions by a governmental entity would be patently illegal. It is significant that CCTA provides no case citations or other evidence to prove its assertion.

Hey, if you can’t trust Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to safeguard the free market, who can you trust?

Two out-of-state organizations – the Rural Broadband Policy Group and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance – joined the California Broadband Policy Network in adding their enthusiasm for open access grant money to the discussion. The national wireless ISP association, WISPA, prepared draft comments, but I haven’t seen any indication yet that those were actually filed.

In addition to TURN, returning commenters included Access Humboldt (in favor of eligibility expansion), a group of small, rural telephone companies, and the CPUC’s own Division of Ratepayer Advocates (both against). Including Tellus Venture Associates, there’s a total of ten reply filings and one draft, although it’s likely that one or more won’t make it into the official record because of various technicalities.

All the first round comments, including the ones that won’t go into the official record, and yesterday’s replies, including WISPA’s draft, can be downloaded here.