Tuesday, March 04, 2014

California screamin: Internet policy quagmire fosters failure

Plan for rural broadband collapses | The Press Democrat
This story illustrates the real world consequences of what happens when legacy incumbent wireline Internet providers control government subsidy programs designed to help cover the cost of deploying Internet infrastructure. They refuse to accept the subsidies themselves for high cost areas and lobby to influence the eligibility rules so that others can't easily qualify for funding.

These comments in the story from Cathy Emerson, manager of two consortia involved in expanding Internet access and Mitch Drake, head of the company that applied for subsidy funding from the California Public Utilities Commission, sum up the sorry situation:
“We're looking at a significant Catch-22,” Emerson said. “The federal
and the state programs are trying very hard to make use of legislative
moneys that have been collected, intended to be used for broadband
deployment. And yet the very language of the legislation has been so
effectively edited to the favor of the incumbents that it's extremely
difficult to try to offer services to these rural-most pockets.”

“I call this the great stalemate,” said Drake. “There's a huge need in
Northern California, and we've got a program that was designed to take
care of the need, and we've got incumbent carriers who made this
financial decision, for one reason or another, not to serve these rural
communities. But at the same time they are the biggest opponents,
preventing anyone from doing anything about it.”
It's going to get even harder for non-incumbent providers and local governments to qualify for the CPUC's California Advanced Services Fund network construction subsidy dollars in this year's funding round under revised rules recently adopted by the CPUC. Steve Blum has the depressing details in this blog post.

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