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Industry, Consumer Groups Trade Barbs in Calif. BEAD Rulemaking

Reject incumbent ISPs’ “self-serving recommendations” for California rules on broadband, equity, access and deployment (BEAD) program funding, urged Center for Accessible Technology (CforAT). The California Public Utilities Commission received reply comments Monday in its BEAD rulemaking (docket R.23-02-016). Incumbents submitted…

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ideas in opening comments (see 2304180075) that “would only serve to entrench these incumbents’ existing market power and would artificially exclude support for more qualified applicants that are more responsive to the communities they serve,” said CforAT. But BEAD isn't "a government handout to convince incumbents to provide broadband to unserved and underserved communities while reaping the highest possible profits and providing the fewest possible community benefits,” the consumer advocate said. The California Broadband and Video Association countered that the CPUC should reject proposals that exceed Congress’ and NTIA’s guidance. Don't direct funding toward overbuilding or "ignore commercial providers’ expertise in deploying and operating broadband networks in favor of applicants that lack such experience,” the state cable group said. GeoLinks chafed at CforAT and the Electronic Frontier Foundation implying in their opening comments that non-fiber technologies are inferior. NTIA has been clear that multiple technologies can provide reliable service, including wireless, said the CLEC: Don't set the extremely high cost per location threshold (EHCT) "so high as to risk a handful of fiber projects in extremely hard-to-build areas gobbling up most" BEAD funding. The wireless industry continued to urge the CPUC not to preclude fixed wireless. "There is no meaningful downside risk of setting the EHCT ‘too low’ because the Commission retains complete flexibility to prioritize and select broadband projects based on whatever factors it deems appropriate, including speed, capacity, cost, and time to deploy,” said CTIA. Wireless costs less and deploys faster, the Wireless ISP Association wrote. Fiber doesn’t cost more in the long term, disagreed Communications Workers of America. "Although fixed wireless has a lower upfront capital cost, costs are comparable over 30 years because of higher ongoing costs, for example equipment replacement," CWA said. The Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California suggested the CPUC wait to set the threshold until NTIA announces California's BEAD allocation.