Verizon throws three more broadband subsidy tantrums

Can you hear me now?

To get a broadband construction subsidy from the California Advanced Services Fund (CPUC), you have to show that the area where you want to build is at least underserved, as defined by the California Public Utilities Commission speed standard of 6 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up. Incumbent carriers are then given a chance to prove you wrong.

In the current round of CASF grant and loan applications, submitted last February, some projects – particularly Golden Bear in north California and ViaSat all over the map – drew protests from a wide range of providers. Some weren’t challenged at all. Many, though, faced hardball opposition from local cable companies and a blanket objection from Verizon that makes you wonder if their legal and government affairs people even bothered to read the CASF rules and regs.

Their core objection – repeated over several projects – is that CASF subsidies aren’t necessary, pretty much anywhere in California, because Verizon is doing such a doggone good job

Verizon challenged…stating that wireless carriers continue to build-out their 4G LTE networks. Verizon’s challenge was very vague and did not contain information sufficient to determine if Verizon was challenging the entire project proposal or just a specific area of the project…[CPUC] staff requested that Verizon clearly identify what areas of the project, by census block, it was challenging and to provide…the following information: number of subscribers by census block and speed tier, speed tests with a description on how the speed tests were conducted and what tools were used, and the address of the location of where the speed tests were performed to help determine if in fact the area is served. Verizon did not provide a response or any further information on the challenge and therefore CD staff considers Verizon’s challenge unsubstantiated.

That particular summary was written by CPUC staff regarding Race Telecommunications’ Boron project, but it was essentially the same language used in several other analyses. Verizon apparently believes that diffidently tossing unsubstantiated – and often demonstrably false – advertising claims at the CPUC is all it needs to do to block competition.

Now, it’s going after the Boron project directly, as well as WillitsOnline’s Westport and Boonville projects. In an error-ridden letter, Verizon wants commissioners to take its broadband speed claims at face value and deny the Boron grant application. Similarly arrogant and vacuous objections were submitted regarding Westport and Boonville.

No subscriber numbers, no location information and no test data. It’s just one more angry wail from a corporate temper tantrum that began last year.

Fortunately, Race Telecommunications did its homework and has the test data to back up its grant request. Assuming standard operating procedure, CPUC staff will note Verizon’s unsupported objections in a revised resolution – presumably but not certainly – still recommending funding the project, and give it to commissioners for a vote at their 31 October 2013 meeting.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.