Monday, April 30, 2007

More wishful thinking from CPUC on AB 2987

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued what it says is the first statewide broadband franchise to a cable company, Cox Communications.

CPUC President Michael R. Peevey said the franchise allows Cox to serve four relatively small areas adjoining its existing service territory in the San Diego area, marking a rare occurrence of a cable company attempting to gain customers in a competing cable company’s territory.

Peevey predicts legislation (AB 2987) signed into law last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that put the state in charge of cable franchises instead of local governments is likely to spur competition among broadband providers. “This is good news for consumers, who will have additional choices of providers not only for video service, but for the broadband and telephone services that typically are offered over the newly-constructed cable facilities,” Peevey said. “The Legislature’s goal was to foster video competition and broadband deployment, and that is exactly what we see beginning to happen.”

I’m not as sanguine as Peevey. The costs of moving into an existing provider’s service area with new infrastructure are quite high. Consequently, telcos and cable companies are concentrating on their existing service areas. They negotiated low build out requirements in AB 2987 that only require them to deploy broadband to less than half of their service areas by 2012. In addition, cable companies are free to operate under the terms of local government franchise agreements that were in effect when AB 2987 became law earlier this year. That allows them to stand pat and not offer service to areas that currently don’t have service — hardly paving the way for an expansion of broadband as trumpeted by the CPUC’s Peevey.

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