Spectrum as Infrastructure – Connecting Rural and Underserved Areas
Panel Description: More than 15 million Americans in rural and tribal areas still lack access to 25/3 broadband, and a disproportionate number of rural schools and libraries lack high-capacity broadband connections. Wireless services may provide cost-effective solutions to address this rural broadband gap. Fixed wireless access can provide broadband at high capacity (100/10 Mbps or better), or over long distances to remote locations, at a fraction of the cost of trenching fiber. This panel will describe three pending FCC rulemakings that could open access to a large new supply of both unlicensed and lightly-licensed shared spectrum.
Featured Speakers in Highlights: Melissa Slawson (GeoLinks) Andrew Clegg (Google), Moderator: Michael Calabrese (New America OTI)
There are a number of companies disrupting the current state of highly technical industries. From logistics software to machinery, the list of innovation can go on-and-on. This can be attributed to the “meet demand” at all cost global business model we are currently in the throws of.
The current tech boom can in many ways be attributed to the perpetually changing needs of retailers, manufacturers, and the consumers they aim to please. This is especially true in highly technical industries where innovative competition is fierce.
Let’s take a closer look at the companies redefining highly technical industries in innovatively unique ways.
1] A. Prentice Ray
Prentice Ray & Associates (APRA) is a company set on disrupting high-tech industry needs in the government sector. They have a variety of consulting services that support government agencies, such as the Department of Defense, Department of State, and the U.S. Air Force.
They provide services, like acquisition support, IT and app development technology solutions, cyber security, project management, staff augmentation, and more. By implementing APRA, agencies and enterprises can enhance existing processes.
2] Edge Logistics
Edge Logistics is a logistics and transportation company helmed in Chicago, Illinois. The company provides freight broker services with high-tech proprietary support to help industries maximize efficiency, which increases their logistics bottom line.
By serving up customized logistics solutions that meet company needs, the company has had exponential growth. Features include, efficiency evaluations, operation audits, distribution program development, and more.
3] Machinery Network
Machinery Network provides a massive inventory of used machinery for CNC, plastic, metalworking, fabrication, and more. This fills a huge industrial gap, especially since the cost of new machinery equipment can be too high for new manufacturers.
The manufacturing industry is always in need of companies providing solutions to enhance efficiency and productivity. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, every dollar spent in manufacturing adds $1.89 to the economy.
Machinery Network adds value to highly technical industries via auction, appraisal, financing, warranties, and technical support. They are members of Machinery Deals National Association (MDNA) and the Association of Machinery and Equipment Appraisers (AMEA).
4] Clean Energy Solutions
Clean Energy Solutions is serves up solar energy solutions for enterprises, governments, nonprofits, businesses, and even homeowners. They are revolutionizing the solar industry, one of the most highly technical industries of today.
Noted as one of the fastest growing companies in the solar industry, they have over 35,000 installs with partners funding almost a billion dollars in solar projects. One of the hallmarks of Clean Energy Solutions is that they make solar attainable to everyone.
goTRG is a leader in multi-channel sales and supply chain business solutions and SaaS for retailers and manufacturers. There innovative technology helps retailers and manufacturers overcome pain points associated with reverse logistics, returns management, multi-channel sales, and more.
By implementing software, cleverly dubbed as R1 Cloud, they can help retailers and manufacturers make disposition decisions farther upstream for an efficient and more profitable reverse logistics system.
GeoLinks is another company providing value to highly technical industries through fixed wireless Internet. This is achieved using their ClearFiber™ Network, SD-WAN, DigitalVoice, and a full-suite infrastructure.
With 24/7 technical support and fast installation, this innovative company is providing telecommunication on a scalable level. The GeoLinks solution is available for businesses, global enterprises, and institutions.
7] Your Doctors Online
Your Doctors Online is a health-tech company solving a major issue in highly technical industries, providing quality healthcare and access to medical advice, prescriptions, second opinions, and sick notes 24/7 anywhere in the world.
The core of the company began with second opinions for those needing a fresh perspective on a diagnosis or treatment plan.
However, their free online doctor chat has made waves in the health-tech industry. Now people and companies can access doctors via an app in minutes.
HQSoftware delivers customized software solutions in the highly technical space of IoT, VR, and AR. Their innovative solutions include, data analysis, UX/UI design, web and mobile app development and integration, IoT development, software integration, and more.
Featured in CIO Review and Clutch, HQSoftware boasts a notable client list, including the United Nations, HTC, BBC, and SEGA to name a few. There deep tech knowledge has positioned them as a leader in the software industry.
Wrapping Up . . .
There are a number of companies redefining highly technical industries. The above companies are serving up cutting-edge solutions for enterprise, governments, businesses, and organizations, all worth exploring. From logistics to healthcare, the tech solutions of the future are certainly disrupting the tech status quo.
CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION
Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund.
Rulemaking No. 12-10-012 (Filed October 25, 2012)
OPENING COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. (U-7326-C) DBA GEOLINKS ON ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE’S RULING REQUESTING COMMENTS ON THE ELIGIBILITY FOR AND PRIORITIZATION OF BROADBAND
INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDS FROM THE CALIFORNIA ADVANCED
September 21, 2018
California Internet, L.P. (U-7326-C) dba GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) respectfully submits these opening comments on the Administrative Law Judge’s Ruling Requesting Comments on the Eligibility for and Prioritization of Broadband Infrastructure Funds from the California Advanced Services Fund released on September 5, 2018 (“Ruling”).
Headquartered in Camarillo, CA, GeoLinks is nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Hosted Voice solutions. The Company’s proprietary ClearFiber™ product utilizes a combination of terrestrial fiber optic backhaul, carrier-grade full-duplex fixed wireless equipment, and Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) licensed spectrum to deliver ultra-reliable high-speed broadband Internet access via radio waves.
GeoLinks was the largest construction grant winner for California K-12 schools and libraries in 2016 and 2017, providing highspeed broadband to rural school districts and surrounding communities throughout the state that previously had not had access to any high-speed broadband service. In addition, the Company was recently named an awardee in the Connect America Fund Phase II (“CAF II”) auction for several areas in California where, absent subsidy funding, “broadband expansion and ongoing service would not be economically feasible.” The Company hopes to leverage its expertise in connecting unserved areas of the state to apply for California Advanced Services Fund (“CASF”) funding in the coming year.
- The Commission Should Incentivize the Use of Existing Communication Facilities in Making Determinations Regarding 100% Project Funding but Should not Require It if Such Use is Not Practicable
The Ruling seeks comment on how the Commission should weigh the existence of communications facilities when determining whether a project is eligible for 100% funding. GeoLinks supports the notion that, where possible, existing communication facilities should be utilized for CASF projects. The CASF should not fund duplicative facilities if use of existing facilities is possible and cost-effective. This is especially true where existing communication facilities in a proposed project area are owned or already utilized by the CASF applicant. However, GeoLinks urges the Commission not to mistake the existence of communication facilities with the availability or usability of communication facilities.
The “existence of communication facilities” should be narrowly defined to only include facilities that are accessible to a CASF applicant. As an initial matter, while competitive broadband providers may have information regarding existing fiber backhaul interconnection points or existing unbundled network elements (“UNEs”), they do not necessarily have access to information regarding where all existing communication facilities exist within or near a proposed project area. For example, providers may not know where there is existing conduit or wireless communication towers. In addition, even if a tower is present, it may not always be clear who owns it. In these instances, if a CASF applicant is not aware that facilities are available, it should not be precluded from seeking 100% CASF funding for an area.
Second, even where existing communications facilities are known, they may not be available. Areas without highspeed broadband access generally do not have an abundance of options for middle mile and backhaul interconnection. In GeoLinks experience, areas such as those that are eligible for CASF funding may only have legacy ILEC facilities. GeoLinks has experienced several instances where UNE connections have been unavailable due to oversold circuits or the delays associated with negotiating interconnection agreements. In these instances, while communication facilities technically exist, they are not feasible options and should not preclude a competitive broadband carrier from being eligible for 100% CASF funding if the project would otherwise meet the criteria for additional funding and serve the public interest.
Third, even if known and available, utilizing existing facilities may not be the most cost-effective solution for a project. Fixed wireless providers use existing facilities wherever practicable including towers, roof tops, water towers, etc.). However, in instances where there are no existing facilities with line-of-sight, a fixed wireless provider may not be able to utilize existing communications facilities (or any facilities, for that matter). In these cases, in order to create a direct line of sight (and to avoid unnecessary “tower hops” that can add cost and deployment delay), a fixed wireless provider may need to build its own towers. These new towers are capable of extending high-speed broadband networks to areas that fiber providers either can’t or are unwilling to due to cost. In these situations, while existing facilities may be technically available, it may not make sense to utilize them.
For the reasons stated above, GeoLinks urges the Commission not to require utilization of any existing communication facilities that may exist in a proposed project area in order to obtain 100% funding. While GeoLinks supports a requirement to use existing facilities, generally, GeoLinks recommends that in instances where existing facilities are unknown, unavailable or impractical the Commission require that the CASF applicant provide an explanation describing 1) what steps were taken to determine if existing facilities are available, 2) the extent to which any available facilities will be utilized in the proposed project, and 3) if available facilities will not be utilized, an explanation of why the costs to build additional facilities is in the public interest. GeoLinks believes that this approach will encourage use of existing facilities, where available, but will not hinder competitive carriers from seeking 100% CASF funding for the benefit of a proposed project area or promote over subsidizing CASF projects where it would be more cost-effective to construct new facilities.
In addition to the above, the Ruling asks whether the use of unconnected public safety infrastructure should be a factor in determining whether additional funding is available. GeoLinks is not opposed to efforts to promote the use of this infrastructure, where available, in CASF projects. However, if this type of infrastructure is going to be a factor in determining whether additional funding is available, GeoLinks believes that information regarding where this infrastructure is should be made available to all potential CASF applicants. Moreover, the Commission must take steps to ensure that this infrastructure is accessible by CASF applicants. Otherwise, this infrastructure should be considered simply “existing communication facilities” and any applicant that already owns this infrastructure should be required to utilize it as part of a proposed CASF project, to the extent possible.
- “Significant Contribution” Should be Determined on a Project-Specific Basis
GeoLinks believes that whether a proposed CASF project makes a “significant contribution” to achieving the program goal depends on the specifics of the proposed project. Using the example set forth in the Ruling, while serving a minimum number of households may be indicative of a “significant contribution” in some CASF-eligible areas, in others, where there may be few households (because, for example, the area is remote or primarily agricultural), GeoLinks believes that a “significant contribution” can still be made in other ways (e.g. by ensuring broadband availability to key anchor institutions in the area, as well as the households within a propose project area).
As the Commission recently stated, the goal of the CASF program is to “support broadband adoption programs in communities with low broadband access.” This goal applies to all communities throughout California that lack sufficient broadband access. GeoLinks urges the Commission not to set minimums to measure “significant contribution” that disincentivize would-be CASF applicants from applying for CASF funds in smaller communities. Instead, GeoLinks suggests that the Commission develop a set of factors that can be weighed to determine if a project would make a “significant contribution.” In addition to how many households may be served by a project, these factors could include, for example, whether services will be made available to anchor institutions, what speeds will be offered, what the proposed service offerings are, etc. Therefore, GeoLinks urges the Commission to determine whether a project makes a “significant contribution” to achieving the program goal on a project-by-project basis.
- Additional Funding Should be Available for Projects that Would Serve Low-Income Communities on a Technology Neutral Basis
In the Ruling, the Commission asks whether additional funding should be provided for applications that service low-income areas. As an initial matter, GeoLinks supports methods to incentivize CASF projects to low-income communities and does not oppose additional funding for projects that would serve these communities, as set forth in the Ministerial Review table in the Ruling. However, as discussed in further detail below, GeoLinks urges the Commission not to prioritize one technology type over others by, for example, granting ministerial review to a proposed fiber project to a low-income area but not to a fixed wireless project for a similar area even if the fixed wireless project may offer the same service offerings at a per-household cost of 5x less. GeoLinks urges the Commission to take a technology neutral approach for all aspects of the CASF program including incentives for serving low-income communities.
- The Commission Should Require CASF Grantees to Offer Affordable Broadband Service Plans as a Condition of Receiving CASF Funding
GeoLinks believes that affordability should absolutely be a factor when addressing broadband access. It is well understood that the digital divide has two sides – availability and adoption. Even where broadband service may be available, if it is not affordable then it is still not attainable.
GeoLinks supports requiring CASF grantees to offer affordable broadband service plans. The FCC has long recognized the importance of affordability when it comes to broadband access. The FCC’s Urban Rate Survey sets forth reasonable comparability benchmarks for fixed voice and broadband services. As part of the CAF II Auction process, the FCC requires CAF II recipients to adhere to these comparability benchmarks when pricing broadband services:
For broadband services, a support recipient will be required to certify that the pricing of a service that meets the required performance tier and latency performance requirements is no more than the applicable reasonably comparable rate benchmark, or that it is no more than the non-promotional price charged for a comparable fixed wireline broadband service in the state or U.S. territory where the eligible telecommunication carrier (ETC) receives support.
GeoLinks believes that if the Commission requires an affordable broadband service plan, it should build off of the extensive work the FCC has already done and utilize the rural comparison rates already in place. Requiring a different standard could disincentivize providers from participating in the CASF program. On one hand, a laxer pricing standard could run contrary to the FCC’s standards, putting CAF II service providers at odds with the FCC’s directives. On the other hand, a stricter pricing standard could render an area unattractive to potential applicants where, even with a grant or loan (even at 100% funding), a return-on-investment may not be possible.
GeoLinks urges the Commission to require an affordable service offering from CASF grantees that aligns with requirements already put into place for CAF II recipients. This will ensure an affordable rate for consumers and create administrative certainty for all broadband providers.
- The Commission Should Ensure That Any New Scoring Criteria Serve the Public Interest and the Goals of the CASF Program
In the Ruling, the Commission proposes a number of new scoring criteria. GeoLinks provides comments on the proposed scoring criteria, below:
- A Commitment to Serve All Households in the Proposed Project Area
GeoLinks supports a requirement to serve a minimum threshold of households within a proposed project area. This is necessary to ensure that the residents of a project area receive the full benefit of the CASF award. However, GeoLinks cautions against drawing a hard line regarding serving all households in a project area given currently available data.
On the California Broadband map, census projections are based on the 2010 U.S. Census. While this may be the most accurate information available, it is still close to 10 years old and may, depending on how areas have changed, over or under-estimate the actual number of households in an area. Even for the CAF II Auction, while the FCC requires that auction recipients offer service to a certain number of locations within an award area, that number is based on the Connect America Cost Model Methodology, which is an estimate and subject to a “true-up” process once awardees begone construction. For this reason, GeoLinks suggests that the Commission adopt the same minimum availability threshold utilized by the FCC in the CAF II auction (95% of locations within eligible areas) for CASF project areas.
- 10 Mbps/ 1 Mbps Speed Threshold
As GeoLinks explained in prior comments in this proceeding, the Commission should reject any notion that so long as a CASF applicant offers 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, no additional points should be awarded if higher speeds are offered. This “good enough.” approach does nothing to future-proof network design to ensure adequate speed and capacity for years to come and runs contrary to the goals of the CASF program. Just as the FCC’s CAF II auction assigned different bid weights to different speeds tiers offered by auction participants, the Commission should assign higher weight to CASF applications that offer higher speeds. In addition, GeoLinks urges the Commission to consider weighting a proposed project higher with respect to additional funding above 60% if a service provider proposes to offer speeds of 100 Mbps/ 20 Mbps to a minimum of 95% of locations within a proposed service area.
GeoLinks advocates that latency of 100 ms should be the absolute minimum acceptable for any CASF-funded broadband project. The Company has advocated in other forums that the minimum latency should be 50 ms.
- CEQA-Related Timeframes
GeoLinks supports the proposed requirement that if a project receives a categorical exemption under CEQA, it must be completed in 12 months or less and if a project requires additional CEQA/NEPA review it must be completed within two years of the approval of those reviews. The CASF program should support rapid deployment of high speed broadband networks. Longer timeframes would not serve the public interest.
- Data Caps
GeoLinks supports this Commission’s proposed requirement that data caps, where used, should exceed 190 GBs per month. The Company does not impose data caps on its customers and does not believe that CASF recipients should, either. However, if imposed, GeoLinks believes that 190 GBs per month is sufficient for general use. That said, the Company urges the Commission to require that CASF-awardees offer a plan with a higher data cap.
- Affordable Plans
As explained above, GeoLinks supports the notion of requiring CASF-recipients to offer affordable plans to customers. Specifically, GeoLinks urges the Commission to utilize the rural comparison rates already established by the FCC.
- The CASF Program Should be Administered on a Technology Neutral Basis
As an initial matter, GeoLinks asserts that the CASF Program, in all aspects, should be administered on a technology-neutral basis. Any service provider, regardless of technology type (including satellite), should be permitted to apply for CASF funds so long as it can adhere to all minimum service requirements as suggested herein. Along this vein, any service provider, regardless of technology type, must also be subject to the same standard of review with respect to the CASF application process.
In the Ruling, the Commission seeks comment on proposed revisions to the Ministerial Review process set forth in the Staff Proposal. While GeoLinks continues to support a ministerial process and commends the Commission for considering this time and cost saving process, the Commission must ensure that any such process is implemented on a technology neutral basis, which, unfortunately, the proposed revisions still do not accomplish.
Originally, Staff’s proposal suggested a per household threshold of $1,285 for fixed wireless providers and $15,650 for wireline providers to received ministerial review of any proposed project that proposed to serve low-income areas. In the Ruling, the Commission now proposes $4000-$8000 per household for wireline and $1,500 for fixed wireless to trigger ministerial review. As noted in GeoLinks’ opening comments on the Staff Proposal, it was not clear where the original numbers came from but GeoLinks surmised that they may have been based on amounts approved for projects in the past. GeoLinks does not know how the Commission determined the new numbers in the Ruling. Regardless, GeoLinks maintains that any threshold numbers used as part of any CASF review process must be technology neutral lest they work to favor one technology over others.
As proposed, the new ministerial process for reviewing CASF projects and assigning the amount of funding a project may be eligible for STILL creates a huge disparity between technology types. First, the Ruling proposes a range for ministerial review of wireline projects that may allow for streamlined review of projects that cost more than 5x what a fixed wireless project may cost for the same area. For example, if a fixed wireless provider applies to provide high-speed broadband to households in a CASF-eligible area of the state for $1600 per household, that fixed wireless provider should not be precluded from the ministerial process when a fiber-based project, that will likely offer the same speeds, latency, etc., would be eligible for ministerial review – and for a project costing potentially $6400 more PER HOUSEHOLD. This price discrepancy serves no public benefit and diverts funds that could be used for other areas unnecessarily. The Commission should instead grant ministerial review for all projects that offer streamlined, high quality, low-cost solutions to CASF-eligible areas, regardless of technology type.
GeoLinks urges the Commission to set one per household cost threshold for ministerial review that accommodates any kind of technology. This will encourage service providers with the most cost-effective network design to apply for funding. Moreover, it will streamline the administrative process. As the Commission appears to believe $4000 would be an appropriate threshold, GeoLinks supports making that the threshold for ministerial review for all technology types.
- The Commission Should Not Preclude CAF Providers from Seeking CASF Funds in Non-CAF Areas
As GeoLinks explained in previous comments, in adopting any rules related to the treatment of CAF recipients, GeoLinks urges the Commission to remember that these recipients made commitments to the FCC in exchange for receipt of CAF funds. As a recent CAF II awardee, GeoLinks stands by this statement as it prepares to complete its CAF II obligations.
GeoLinks does not believe that CAF providers should be precluded from seeking CASF funding for non-CAF areas, subject of course to the same evaluation criteria and the same score weighting as all CASF applicants (as detailed above). Allowing these providers to seek CASF funds for areas that, for example, may be adjacent to a CAF area or the CAF provider’s existing service territory may create synergies that could reduce the amount of CASF funding needed to serve the area (vs. a new provider potentially needing to build network from scratch to provide the same service). Because CAF II providers will already be constructing network in California capable of providing consumers with higher speeds than that required under the current CASF rules, allowing these providers to extend additional network that will be capable of the same to CASF-eligible areas is in the public interest. In addition, GeoLinks believes that after a CAF area is completed (meaning the provider has completed construction to ensure broadband availability to the requisite number of locations in an area as required by the FCC), CAF providers should not be precluded from applying for CASF funding to complete build out to 100% of the locations within that area.
If a CAF provider fails to meet its commitments (either by only offering broadband service to a portion of the requisite locations within an area or not completing an area at all), there should be some consequence with respect to CASF funding for those CAF areas. Since CAF areas are precluded from CASF funding and will be until July 2020, unless a CAF provider notifies the Commission that it does not intend to complete its obligations, these areas continue to be “on hold” until CAF providers can complete network buildout. If a CAF provider decides not to complete an area and waits to inform the Commission of this fact, it is essentially holding the area hostage with respect to broadband funding. This behavior should not be rewarded. GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt a mandatory CASF-application waiting period for these providers, which would ramp up the longer the provider waited to inform the Commission that it would not complete a CAF area. Failure to impose some consequences for delay on the part of these providers will only serve to incentivize gaming the system to the detriment of California consumers.
Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks urges the Commission to ensure that the CASF Program is administered on a technology neutral basis and in a way that allows applicants to leverage existing communication facilities and other sources of funding without limiting opportunities for competitive carriers to offer cost-effective, high quality, broadband solutions to CASF-eligible areas.
/s/ Melissa Slawson
General Counsel, V.P. of Government Affairs and Education
California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks
251 Camarillo Ranch Rd
Camarillo, CA 93012
September 21, 2018
 For more information about fixed-wireless technology and GeoLinks’ Clearfiber™ network, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8GvGOKCpnk
 FCC Press Release, Connect America Fund Auction to Expand Broadband to Over 700,000 Rural Homes and Business: Auction Allocates $1.488 Billion to Close the Digital Divide, released August 28, 2018 (“CAF Press Release”), at 1.
 Press Release, CPUC Acts to Expand Broadband Adoption Through California Advanced Services Fund, released June 21, 2018.
 See Ruling at 6.
 See Connect America Fund Phase II Auction Scheduled for July 24, 2018 Notice and Filing Requirements and Other Procedures for Auction 903, AU Docket No. 17-182, released February 1, 2018, at para 13.
 See Connect America Fund, et al., Order on Reconsideration, FCC 18-5 (rel. January 31, 2018) (“CAF Recon Order”), at para. 29.
 Reply Comments of California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks on Phase II of the February 14, 2018 Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling (filed May 1, 2018), at 6.
 CAF Recon Order, at para. 4.
 Phase II of the February 14, 2018 Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling, Appendix C (“Staff Report”), at 14.
 Opening Comments of California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks on Phase II of the February 14, 2018 Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling (filed April 16, 2018), at 3.
 See https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/caf2-auction903-results/. As shown on this map, all areas in California for which support was awarded are for services at “baseline” (25/3 Mbps) or higher. See also, CAF Recon Order, at para. 4.
GeoLinks wins contract to hook up parts of California and Nevada
Camarillo-based GeoLinks is expanding into the residential internet market after it won a multimillion-dollar contract from the Federal Communications Commission to help bring high-speed internet to rural areas in California and Nevada.
GeoLinks, a company that uses radio waves instead of cables and wires to provide fixed wireless internet connections, primarily services businesses and institutions such as schools and libraries.
But last month, the Federal Communications Commission announced GeoLinks will receive nearly $88 million as part of the second phase of the FCC’s Connect America Fund, which will give out nearly $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to help underserved Americans get online and close the “digital divide” between those with high-speed internet access and those without.
Skyler Ditchfield, GeoLink’s founder and CEO, said his company will use its share—the largest amount given to a California company and the fifth largest given to any company nationwide— to provide high-speed internet access to about 11,000 homes in California and Nevada.
“It makes a big difference in (rural residents’) lives,” he said. “The whole mission is closing the digital divide, providing more opportunities for schooling, operating online businesses, research, etc. It brings new businesses and brings the economy up for people in extremely rural areas.”
To help install the equipment that will provide internet at speeds of 100 megabits per second, the company plans to hire about 25 people, Ditchfield said.
And while the contract will help the company serve people in their homes, he said, the money will also help GeoLinks serve its traditional customer base of companies and organizations.
“We’re going to utilize it to help bring down the cost of service to anchor institutions like schools and libraries,” he said.
Ryan Adams, GeoLink’s president and chief operating officer, said the FCC contract shows that a local medium-size company can hold its own against powerful internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon that would typically win a government contract like this.
“It shows a company like ourselves, based here in Camarillo, that we can compete at a national level. It’s about having the right people, the right management team and the right employees to compete on this stage,” he said.
While the contract win was exciting, Adams said, GeoLinks remains focused on its mission of ensuring as many people as possible have access to high-speed internet.
“For us, it’s all about connecting people,” he said.
The Federal Communications Commission recently released the results of its Connect America Fund Phase II auction, and Camarillo-based telecom GeoLinks says it received a total of $87.8 million to expand rural internet service in California and Nevada.
The company says it was the largest auction winner in California and fifth-largest winner in the nation overall.
“GeoLinks’ founding mission is to close the U.S. digital divide,” company co-founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield said in a news release. “With this promise of capital from the FCC, GeoLinks will be able to further expand our network into rural areas of both California and Nevada, ultimately providing more than 11,000 rural locations with Internet at 100 megabits per second. We are excited that this new infrastructure will also reduce the cost of bringing high speed broadband access to anchor institutions such as schools, libraries, hospitals and community colleges.”
According to GeoLinks, a total of 103 providers ultimately won support in the auction to expand broadband across 45 states. The funding, which will be distributed over the next 10 years, is intended to connect 53 percent of rural homes and businesses with broadband download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second. Nineteen percent are intended to have gigabit service available. And 711,389 locations — all but 0.25% — will have at least 25 Mbps service available.
Melissa Slawson, GeoLinks’ general counsel and vice president of government affairs and education, said: “As part of its efforts to promote ubiquitous broadband access for all Americans, the FCC created the CAF II auction to enable Internet service providers to build and maintain infrastructure in unserved areas throughout the U.S. I am elated to see that a capable company of our size was granted substantial funding to further propel our mission connect rural California, Nevada, and beyond.”
Ranked in 2017 and 2018 as one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest-growing companies in America on the Inc. 5000, GeoLinks says it delivers enterprise-grade internet, digital voice, SD-WAN, cloud on-ramping, Layer 2 transport, and both public and private turnkey network construction.
GeoLinks, headquartered in Camarillo, California, received a total of USD 87.8 million from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand rural Internet in California and Nevada, making it the largest auction winner in the state of California, and 5th largest winner in the nation overall, the company said.
The FCC allocated USD 1.488 billion to help close the US “digital divide.”
Ousting big telcos such as Verizon, Frontier, and AT&T, this is the first time the largest winner of CAF in California has been an independent operator and not an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC).
Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is the Fastest Growing Telecom in California and a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally awarded for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. Ranked in both 2017 and 2018 as one of Inc. Magazine´s Fastest Growing companies in America on the Inc. 5000, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WAN, Cloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.
An $87.8 million grant to Camarillo telecommunications company GeoLinks will fund the build-out of high-speed internet networks in rural communities of California and Nevada, including parts of the Tri-Counties.
Granted by the Federal Communications Commission as part of nearly $1.5 billion allocated to 103 providers through the Connect America Fund Auction, the deal was the largest allocation in the state and fifth largest in the nation.
Awardees submitted bids to cover more than 700,000 rural homes and small businesses across 45 states. More than half of the locations will be connected with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second, the FCC said in its announcement.
GeoLinks had an existing presence near several of the target locations and had been gearing up for the bid for several months, said CEO Skyler Ditchfield
“It’s really going to help us cross this digital divide,” he told the Business Times, adding that the company plans to layer in “anchor institutions” such as hospitals, schools, libraries and community colleges.
Moreover, the auction “encouraged innovation” by allowing providers to use any broadband technology that met the performance standards, the FCC’s statement said. It was weighted toward bids that would provide higher speeds, higher usage allowances and lower latency.
That included GeoLinks’ solar-powered fixed signal facilities, Ditchfield said, which also means the company isn’t limited by access to utility lines.
With several companies in the mix offering fixed wireless, the deal demonstrates that it’s “a viable alternative to landline options … not an alternative option but a primary option,” he said.
Including GeoLinks, five California companies were awarded a total of $149 million to develop network access for nearly 52,000 locations. Nevada companies received a combined $29.3 million for four bids to bring internet access to around 14,000 locations.
“The successful conclusion of this first-of-its kind auction is great news for the residents of these rural communities, who will finally be able to share in the 21st-century digital opportunities that broadband provides,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in the announcement.
“By tapping the mechanisms of the marketplace, the Phase II auction served as the most appropriate and cost-effective way to allocate funding for broadband in these unserved communities, bringing the highest-quality broadband services to the most consumers at the lowest cost to the ratepayer.”
The FCC is also working toward the launch of a $4.5 billion effort to expand 4G LTE wireless coverage for customers in rural regions called the Mobility Fund Phase II auction. A six-year, $9 billion program through Connect America will also work to extend broadband access in areas already served by large carriers.
GeoLinks has been active in advocating for the use of “white spaces” frequencies and grants to help cover upfront installation costs as a member of an FCC advisory committee working group and the Schools, Health & Library Broadband Coalition.
In an effort to broaden its reach and lure more tech workers, the company moved into a 38,000-square-foot space in Camarillo in mid-2017 and rebranded from its former name California Internet. With 48 employees on staff, it projected that it would reach $17 million in revenue for 2018, up 21 percent from the prior year.
In addition to its March acquisition of Huntington Beach-based fixed wireless provider Vectus, another acquisition is in the works for GeoLinks, Ditchfield said, which would potentially “add density for us in California and Nevada.”
The company, which got its start in Ojai, is also working to bring 3 gigabit service using the technology to urban areas in Southern California and elsewhere. As part of the grant, it will help build out networks for rural communities in Ventura County.
Access to high-speed internet helps drive economic opportunity for small businesses in those areas, Ditchfield said.
“It’s going to be a long build process that we’ll be gearing up for, but it’s exciting, because it’ll add more jobs and really bring hope to some of these areas in terms of economic growth.”
California-based fixed wireless provider details plans for extending rural broadband access into underserved and unserved markets
GeoLinks, a California-based rural broadband provider, walked away from the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s Connect America Fund auction with $87.3 million to expand its coverage area in its home state and next door in Nevada. GeoLinks was the biggest winner in California and the fifth biggest in the country.
The award is part of the FCC’s funding of $1.488 billion over 10 years to 103 service providers taking on the mandate to connected an additional 713,176 homes and business in 45 states. Per the terms of the funding, service providers receiving aid have to reach 40% of locations in a state within three years of funding authorization and construction must increase 20% each year with the goal of finishing in year six.
Skyler Ditchfield, CEO of GeoLinks, told RCR Wireless News via email that the company is “very pleased with the win. It really solidifies our business plans to continue to densify California. California is such a big state, people don’t realize how much of it is severely lacking broadband access. That includes major anchor institutions like libraries, schools, healthcare, first responder locations and more. These places are beyond the reach of most existing networks and rely on very old, slow and expensive copper services if any.”
GeoLinks, as it builds out its network, will look for opportunities to rapidly deploy by making batch deals for infrastructure siting with these anchor institutions. Ditchfield explained. He also noted the need to invest in long distance backhaul.
“We have backbone network running near some of these areas and in some areas we are not close at all…These areas are so remote the nearest fiber junctions are 100-plus miles away. So we will be building long backhauls via multi-gigabit fixed wireless. There isn’t anything in place in these areas for distribution so nearly 100% of the work will be greenfield.”
On the batch deals with anchor institutions, Ditchfield said, “We are hoping for a warm reception from them and residents alike as the more private land we can get quick and easy access to the faster we can deploy and at higher potential speeds of access. The operational costs over time of these networks are one of the big issues in these rural areas because the homes are so few and far between. This is where we really hope to find good allies in the land owners that want to work with us for quick and easy deployments of network backbone infrastructure.”
This round of funding is just one prong of the FCC’s rural broadband and cellular strategy. The Mobility Fund II auction is designed to allocated $4.53 billion to expand LTE coverage in rural markets and the Connect America Fund will shell out $9 billion over six years for rural buildout in areas served by major carriers.
GeoLinks has been awarded $87.8 million from the Federal Communications Commission to bring broadband service to rural areas in California and Nevada.
The Camarillo company was the recipient of the largest amount in California from the FCC’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction and the fifth largest overall. The auction provided a total of $1.49 billion that will be allocated over the next 10 years.
“As part of its efforts to promote ubiquitous broadband access for all Americans, the FCC created the (Connect America) auction to enable Internet service providers to build and maintain infrastructure in unserved areas throughout the U.S.,” said Melissa Slawson, general counsel and vice president of government affairs and education for GeoLinks, in an email to the Business Journal.
The company will bring broadband service to more than 11,000 rural households in California and Nevada.
GeoLinks co-founder and Chief Executive Skyler Ditchfield said he was thrilled that a mid-sized Internet service provider secured the largest grant in the state and be in the top 5 nationally.
“Not only does this secure a bright future for the rural communities we will service, but it also allows our company to have a secure future and bring more jobs into our local economy,” Ditchfield said in a statement.