CPUC Invests $12.7 Million in Broadband Infrastructure and Access for Unserved California Households

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last week approved $12,689,849.72 in grant funding to build high-speed broadband Internet infrastructure and access to unserved Californians. The awards, under the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) broadband infrastructure grant program administered by the CPUC, will serve households in Lassen, Modoc, Kern, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties, and include affordable subscription options.

Press Release is HERE.

 

Why Flawed Broadband Speed Tests Have Devastating Consequences

If government policy is based on faulty data, everyone loses.

C/Net has the details:

The stakes are high. The FCC uses data it collects to produce reports, such as the Measuring Broadband America and the Broadband Deployment reports, to set policy and determine where to deploy resources to promote broadband adoption. Much of the data the FCC gets to populate these reports is supplied by the broadband and wireless companies themselves, or in the case of the speed test, a third party that also contracts with these companies. The result is information that often paints a rosy picture of wireless and broadband in the US.

Though The Wall Street Journal article singled out the broadband speed test, there have long been complaints that the information collected to show where fixed and mobile broadband service is located is flawed. The issue around flawed mapping data has come to a head in the last several months in Congress, where Republicans and Democrats alike from rural regions of the US have lashed out at the FCC, demanding the issue be fixed.

Some of the problems can be attributed to the methodologies used to collect the data. For instance, in mapping fixed broadband the FCC has been criticized for asking carriers to provide more granular data. But critics also charge that relying on carriers to self-report information can lead to problems. Earlier this month, the FCC found that three major US wireless carriers, Verizon, T-Mobile and US Cellular, had misstated their wireless coverage in several rural areas.

“So we’ve got carriers exaggerating coverage for mobile broadband, flawed methodology producing bad maps for fixed broadband, and unreliable numbers on the speed of broadband. What’s left?” said Gigi Sohn, an advisor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and a distinguished fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy. “If there is no cop on the beat, the carriers will just make it like they’re doing awesome and no need for any regulation or oversight.”

Continue reading HERE

Money Quote: The FCC is still working on getting a clearer picture of where broadband and wireless service exists today and where it doesn’t.

A speed test has no value if you do not have a broadband connection to test. The FCC can not test broadband if it does not know where it is! The real issue with the FCC map is not just speed it is accuracy.

PEW Trust: State Broadband Policy Explorer — Laws governing high-speed internet access

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ state broadband policy explorer lets you learn how states are expanding access to broadband through laws. Categories in the tool include: broadband programs, competition and regulation, definitions, funding and financing, and infrastructure access.

As you choose categories, a 50-state map illustrates which states have adopted such laws.

The state broadband policy explorer includes state statutes related to broadband as of Jan. 1, 2019.

Link to California is HERE

 

CPUC to Hold Communications en Banc to Discuss the Future of California’s Communications Grid

SAN FRANCISCO, December 5, 2019 – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is hosting an En Banc on the future of California’s communications grid to address how the state’s processes and regulations will need to evolve to stay relevant to Californians.

WHAT: CPUC Communications Division’s En Banc: “A Provider Perspective on the Future of California’s Communications Grid”

WHEN: Wednesday, January 22, 2020, 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

WHERE: CPUC Auditorium, 505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102; also available via webcast at http://www.adminmonitor.com/ca/cpuc

BACKGROUND

The communications market is changing rapidly. What began as a statewide, copper-based telephone network of franchise monopoly local exchange companies has evolved into a diverse, multi-provider and multi-technology broadband network that relies on copper, fiber optic, wireless, and satellite infrastructure.

This En Banc is the second in a series of stakeholder engagement opportunities envisioned by the CPUC’s Communications Division to address how the state’s processes and regulations will need to evolve to stay relevant to Californians. The public is invited to this En Banc to hear providers’ perspectives regarding the state’s communications grid, challenges, and future work relating to network resiliency, reliability, affordability, and consumer protection.

There will be an opportunity for public comments at the En Banc.

For more information, including a final agenda please visit www.cpuc.ca.gov/CDenbanc.

Source: CPUC Mailing List[lightly edited]

I am wondering if “satellite infrastructure” includes the introduction of LEO satellites capable of providing ubiquitous fiber quality broadband to rural users across California. I suspect that the CPUC is only thinking of HughesNet and Viasat, the only providers of rural broadband today.

CPUC Approves Gold Country Broadband Consortia Work Plan and Funds

Resolution T- 17669 CD/LL3

GCBC represents Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Alpine counties

 

Work Plan and Performance Metrics Plan

GCBC proposes to focus on assisting CASF infrastructure grant applicants in project development, partnering with municipalities and counties on broadband plans, and working with local ISPs to find unserved and underserved areas to connect.
Specifically, GCBC will continue to collaborate with the Commission and other stakeholders to deploy broadband; provide data and information about broadband availability; updated speed tests, best practices, and methods of matching funds to ISPs; and assist the Commission in updating the California Broadband map by communicating with communities to find volunteers for wireline testing. GCBC’s Work Plan and Performance Metrics Plan are directly related to AB 1665 goals and objectives, and consistent with program requirements defined in D.18-10-032. Its detailed Work Plan and Performance Metrics Plan are available at the Commission’s webpage.
12

Budget

GCBC requests $423,010 for a three-year grant. Of its total budget, GCBC allocates approximately 11% to conduct marketing/outreach and develop strategies (Objective 1), 67% to assist in developing CASF infrastructure applications (Objectives 2, 3, and 4), 14% to assist in publicizing wireline testing requests (Objective 5), and 8% to grant administration. GCBC’s budget is cost-effective and consistent with budget requirements defined in D.18-10-032.

Download full-resolution HERE.

The Pew Charitable Trust Broadband Policy Explorer

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ state broadband policy explorer lets you learn how states are expanding access to broadband through laws. Categories in the tool include: broadband programs, competition and regulation, definitions, funding and financing, and infrastructure access.

As you choose categories, a 50-state map illustrates which states have adopted such laws. The state broadband policy explorer includes state statutes related to broadband as of Jan. 1, 2019.

Download the Explorer HERE.

PEW also published:  No One Approach Fits All States in Efforts to Expand Broadband Access Activities, regulatory authority, funding vary by jurisdiction

Here is a screenshot of the California listing with some useful URLs:

Screen Shot 2019-08-02 at 1.16.49 PM

AT&T Redlines Poor and Rural Californians – CPUC Study

Steve Blum has the detail in his blog post: AT&T redlines poor and rural Californians because it can, Frontier because it can’t afford otherwise, CPUC study says

Corporate choices made by AT&T and Verizon, and Frontier Communications’ dire financial condition created the growing divide between relatively modern telecoms infrastructure in affluent urban and suburban communities, and the decaying infrastructure in poor and rural ones. The result is “deteriorating service quality”, “persistent disinvestment”, an “investment focus on higher income communities” and an “increased focus on areas most heavily impacted by competition”, according to a study done for the California Public Utilities Commission by a Boston-based consulting company.

The report paints a contrasting picture of the corporate attitudes of AT&T and Frontier, but neither is flattering. The conclusions are, and should be, devastating for both companies. The report speaks for itself: Both AT&T California and Frontier…[are] in effect, disinvesting in infrastructure overall, and [the disinvestment is] most pronounced in the more rural and low-income service areas. AT&T has the financial resources to maintain and upgrade its wireline network in California, but has yet to do so. Frontier has a strong interest in pursuing such upgrades, but lacks the financial capacity to make the necessary investments.

Continue reading HERE  [Emphasis Added]

CPUC Releases California Advanced Services Fund Broadband Adoption Gap Analysis

SAN FRANCISCO, June 19, 2019 – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has released an analysis on gaps in those subscribing to high-speed broadband internet. The Adoption Gap Analysis was ordered in Decision (D.) 18-06-032 and identifies various demographic barriers to broadband adoption and provides information to support important program and grant decisions for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) Broadband Adoption Account.

The analysis concludes that income, of all the demographic barriers to adoption, is the most significant factor contributing to low adoption (subscription) rates. As a result, the analysis identifies the top ten communities with some of the lowest adoption rates and lowest incomes in California that will be prioritized for grant funding.

In addition to identifying various barriers, the analysis adds data to the online California Interactive Broadband Map (http://www.broadbandmap.ca.gov/) to include various demographic data at the census tract, block group or block level.

These resources will assist decision makers, stakeholders and potential CASF applicants to 1) better understand their communities and its needs; 2) identify the area’s specific barriers and how to address them; and 3) know where to best implement Adoption projects to yield greater benefits. Applicants interested in applying for grants in the CASF Adoption Account should use these tools and resources in developing proposals. The full analysis can be found here.

 

RCRC Commentary: Empower Local Communities to Close the Digital Divide

Greg Norton President and CEO of Rural County Representatives of California.

The deployment of broadband infrastructure supporting speed-of-commerce connectivity is among the most critical missing components needed to drive economic development in California’s rural communities. Broadband access is essential to connecting rural communities to the 21st century economy. Yet the barriers to deploying infrastructure continue to inhibit access in some of California’s most disadvantaged communities in both rural and urban areas.

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) represents 36 of California’s 58 counties, covering approximately 56 percent of the state’s land mass. It is estimated that merely 47 percent of California’s rural households within this population area have access to high-speed broadband.

I recently had the opportunity to speak about this crisis on a panel before the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) titled “The Imperative of Digital Inclusion.” In their 2016-17 Annual Report, CETF identified internet access as a “21st Century Civil Right,” and the internet is now firmly established as an operational epicenter for business, government, education, information, and basic services.

Access to broadband provides multiple economic and social benefits to rural residents by allowing access to vital government services and resources. Broadband contributes to job creation, economic growth and business investment improves access to critical healthcare services, and expands access to educational resources and opportunities. Broadband access for farmers and ranchers would allow for improved stewardship of our natural resources through the use of technology to monitor and measure water and soil conditions and usage.

Local governments have joined forces in advocating for the acceleration of broadband deployment in California’s rural communities, and have outlined a number of key provisions. First, the technology deployed must be an appropriate fit for the area — high-speed fiber connections are imperative. Second, we must look to rural electrification as a model, and fund local municipalities to develop the infrastructure, and provide the services. Lastly, local governments should be empowered to step up as lead partners with the federal government to formulate and execute upon strategies that achieve broad-based access to high-speed services.

When high-speed connectivity is unavailable, too slow, or too expensive, it has a significant impact on the economic success and quality of life in these communities. As a result of the digital divide, rural communities are suffering, and struggle to tap basic resources including educational opportunities, medical care, economic and trade opportunities, and vital government services, including public safety.

We’re aware of the challenges involved in deploying adequate capacity across the broadband infrastructure in California’s rural communities. Rugged terrain, remote locations, and sparse populations are all factors that lead to increased deployment and maintenance costs. However, these challenges must be addressed in order to provide this fundamental socio-economic tool and resource to the residents within these communities. While technological advances such as 5G are beneficial to the overall industry, this type of innovation only serves to create a greater chasm between the haves and the have-nots. Priority should be focused on an equitable deployment of appropriate level services throughout the state, not on the next big thing for the fortunate few.

Community-driven broadband partnerships offer a solution. We can quickly resolve this problem by including local communities in the process of choosing the appropriate means to deliver the requisite broadband to ensure quality of life, business growth, and household capital formation. In partnership with the federal government, communities can choose the approach to delivering broadband best suited to their specific needs. Options could include innovative public-private partnerships, other government financing, or through the enforced requirement of leveraging infrastructure investments made with federal dollars by incumbent providers. The Federal Communications Commission has deployed and earmarked enormous amounts of capital to closing the urban-rural divide that exists with access to broadband. Despite these massive influxes of capital, too many rural communities remain without access.

It is imperative that ubiquitous middle-mile fiber optic cable technology is provided at the speed of commerce to allow small to medium-sized businesses to compete in the digital global marketplace, and attract economic development opportunities to California’s rural communities. Although we have made advancements in expanding broadband, there is more to do to ensure that universal access to broadband services is realized for all rural residents. Now is the time — we must allow local communities to develop high-speed solutions that fit their rural communities’ broadband infrastructure needs. Broadband is fundamentally necessary to a community’s economic health, quality of life, and opportunity at prosperity.

The source is HERE.

Comment:

The Federal funding to improve rural access to broadband is the Connect America II Fund, which is a 10-year program.  The telco 5G build-out is expected to take at least a decade. If the LEO satellite programs from SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb, LeoSat, and Telesat are successful, space-based broadband will become available in 2021 which is only two years away. By 2024 there will be multiple broadband satellite companies competing for rural communities business. These companies are planning to provide 4G and 5G backhaul services at a lower cost than fiber, which has to deal with “rugged terrain, remote locations, and sparse populations.”  One of the obstacles to satellite broadband is the current CPUC and CETF policies which discriminate against satellite services. These are policies that were put in place due to the low speeds, long latency and high cost of geo-satellite broadband services.  LEO satellites latency is on par with cable networks and shared fiber services, and current speeds are equal to cable internet and on long distances exceed fiber speeds.  These policies need to be revisited and adjusted to match future broadband services. More in this issue in future posts.

CPUC to Hold Public Workshop on Expanding Access to Broadband

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), as part of its implementation of The Internet for All Now Act, will hold a workshop to consult with local governments, broadband providers, consumers, and other stakeholders on cost-effective strategies for expanding broadband access in unserved areas of the state. The CPUC welcomes attendance at this public workshop.

WHAT: Workshop on Expanding Access to Broadband
WHEN: Monday, April 29, 2019, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
WHERE:
• . California Lottery Headquarters, 700 North 10th Street, Sacramento, CA, 95811
• . Also available via webcast at www.adminmonitor.com/ca/cpuc
•    Remote participants may email questions during the workshop to:
CASF_Application_Questions@cpuc.ca.gov

Full Press Release is HERE: