Friday, March 20, 2009

4 of 5 proposed California state subsidized broadband projects challenged

Since the California Public Utilities Commission began accepting proposals last year for broadband infrastructure projects eligible for 40 percent subsidies from the CPUC's California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), about four out of five of 30 projects proposed to date have not been approved.

The reason, according to a recently issued CPUC resolution as well as other documentation posted on the CPUC's Web site is they were challenged by unnamed providers on the grounds they didn't comply with CASF funding guidelines targeting unserved areas (no broadband access) and underserved areas of the Golden State (broadband access at speeds less than 3 mbs down and 1 mbs up).

There's a lesson here as the federal government revs up its own plans for subsidizing broadband infrastructure buildout: avoid going down this slippery, ever changing slope of throughput requirements and attempting to define what constitutes served, unserved and underserved when it comes to advanced IP-based services.

These metrics are simply too subjective and prone to being manipulated and gamed by providers, particularly incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) more interested in preserving their territorial hegemony than serving their customers' telecommunications needs.

The better course is to allow entities such as local governments and telecommunications cooperatives with priority for federal broadband economic stimulus funding determine for themselves where infrastructure buildout is most needed. Most of these entities will likely opt for fiber and avoid the issue of throughput speeds altogether given fiber's tremendous capacity to accommodate current and future bandwidth requirements.

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