California broadband advocates push back against telco lobby


The Eastern Sierra Regional Connect Broadband Consortium and the California Emerging Technology Fund are pushing back against the teleco lobby after it was successful at stalling a bill in the California assembly that would have improved broadband access. The California Emerging Technology Fund published a white paper today dispelling myths that California residents are well served with broadband access.

In the fight over a recent bill, that would have added $90 million to the service fund providing subsidies to providers, telecos said that Californians had plenty of service. The subsidies would have gone to independent providers, and municipal networks, which telecos are busily trying to kill off.

According to a post from the Eastern Sierra Connect Regional Broadband Consortium, the California Public Utilities Commission has set 6 Mbps as the download speed standard for the state, and even the FCC has endorsed 4 Mbps as a minimum. However, lobbyists for telcos and cable companies like Comcast claimed 1.5 Mbps was more than enough.

There is also a discrepancy about the number of underserved households. Lobbyists put the figure around 12,000 but the white paper shows that approximately 225,000 lack service.

According to the paper, the problems don’t end there, even though lobbyists claim the state is “overbuilt.” “In 2008 the Broadband Task Force maps showed 96% broadband access. But, groundtruthing by Regional Consortia and rural community leaders revealed that those maps were about 50% in error. Errors arise in mapping because: (a) data is submitted by industry which tends to assert that HHs are “served” if they are a certain distance from a central office for DSL lines or within a given radius for wireless technology without taking into account actual terrain or buildings, trees and mountains in the way; and (b) whatever is selected as a map “cell” size, if just 1 HH is served in that geography, then all HHs in that vicinity are deemed to have access—and that is often just not the case,” the paper says.

The bill failed by three votes but will likely be reintroduced in the next session.