Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Combining two flawed subsidy programs won’t build FTTP infrastructure

Fellow blogger Steve Blum of Tellus Venture Associates suggests coordinating the U.S Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund (CAF) Internet telecom infrastructure construction subsidies with a state subsidy program administered by the California Public Utilities Commission to multiply the amount of money available for such projects. (See Blum's blog post here)

Combining two fundamentally flawed subsidy programs, however, won’t produce a beneficial result considering the underlying weakness of both. Each is primarily structured to subsidize bandwidth, not infrastructure. They do so by defining subsidy eligible areas based on existing low bandwidth levels supported and delivered by legacy infrastructure rather than subsidizing the construction of modern fiber to the premise (FTTP) infrastructure in high cost areas. If an incumbent provider is providing that minimum bandwidth level, the area is deemed ineligible. That furthers the goal of the legacy telephone and cable companies to preserve the status quo by making it more difficult for others to finance FTTP builds in their service territories.

This is a key shortcoming because the primary problem in California and the nation is outdated and inadequate telecom infrastructure that needs to be replaced with FTTP infrastructure. Also, incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) are not motivated to construct FTTP infrastructure in high cost areas regardless of the availability of subsidies. Their business strategy is to focus on more profitable mobile wireless services and on cherry picking high end private communities and parts of low cost, urbanized areas for very limited FTTP builds.

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