Comments to Consider Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund

BEFORE THE
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 PROPOSED DECISION OF COMMISSIONER GUZMAN ACEVES

IMPLEMENTING THE CALIFORNIA ADVANCED SERVICES FUND

INFRASTRUCTURE ACCOUNT REVISED RULES

November 29, 2018 

Pursuant to Rule 14.3 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, California Internet, L.P. (U-7326-C) dba GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) respectfully submits these comments on the on the Proposed Decision of Commissioner Guzman Aceves, entitled “Decision Implementing the California Advanced Services Fund Infrastructure Account Revised Rules” (“Phase II PD”), released on November 9, 2018.

GeoLinks limits these comments to one section of the Phase II PD regarding the Ministerial Review process (Section 2.3). In the Phase II PD, while the Commission acknowledges GeoLinks’ concerns regarding the lack of technology neutrality present in the proposed ministerial review process with respect to the maximum price per household for fiber projects vs. fixed wireless projects, the Commission fails to actually make the process technology neutral. Specifically, while the Phase II PD does lower the maximum amount per household eligible for ministerial review for fiber projects (from $8,000 to $6,000 per household), the number is still inextricably several thousand dollars more than the threshold for fixed wireless projects ($1,500 per household).

The Phase II PD fails to provide any rationale for the thresholds proposed or even attempt to explain why the proposed fiber threshold is $4,500 per household higher than the proposed fixed wireless threshold. GeoLinks assumes these numbers are based on averages taken from previously-approved CASF projects, but this is not clear. For example, while the CASF Annual Report for 2016 explains that the average of 15 CASF fiber projects is $9,442, inclusive of middle mile costs, the Phase II PD does not address this average in any way, explain how the new $6000 may or may not be related to it. The Phase II PD is completely silent as to how the proposed thresholds were conceived, what they may or may not be based on, or why they can’t be the same for both technology types.

Moreover, while the Phase II PD does note that the ministerial thresholds do not preclude fixed wireless projects from being awarded grants that fall outside the ministerial cost criteria, it makes very clear that these projects (even if still significantly less per household than proposed fiber projects that may offer the same speed to the same areas) must go through the Commission’s Resolution process (which is presumably longer and requires a Commission decision). GeoLinks asserts that 1) creating separate thresholds for separate technologies that offer the same service, 2) requiring one technology to endure a procedural process that another would not for what might otherwise be an identical proposed project, 3) and failing to provide any explanation for why the cost threshold or the path to approval is different for one technology over another are examples of bad public policy. In all, the Commission’s retention of differing thresholds for fiber projects vs. fixed wireless projects in direct opposition to the Commission’s goal of administering the CASF program on a “technology neutral” basis and should be rejected.

GeoLinks urges the Commission to create one ministerial threshold for all technology type. Specifically, GeoLinks suggests $4000 to create some balance between the currently inequity of $6000 (fiber) vs. $1500 (fixed wireless).

Respectfully submitted,

/s/ Melissa Slawson
Melissa Slawson
General Counsel, V.P. of Government Affairs and Education
California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks
251 Camarillo Ranch Rd
Camarillo, CA 93012

November 29, 2018

[1] California Advanced Services Fund: A Program to Bridge the Digital Divide in California, Annual Report January 2016 – December 2016 (issued April 2017) at page 43, FN 51.
[1] Interim Opinion Implementing California Advanced Services Fund, Decision 07-12-054 (rel. December 20, 2007), at 8: “The CASF shall be administered on a technology neutral basis by the Commission.”  See also Id. At 28: “CASF funding proposals will be reviewed based upon how well they meet the criteria for selection as set forth below, and, where applicable, compared with any competing claims to match the deployment offer under superior terms. Such criteria should be evaluated on a competitively neutral basis.” (Emphasis added).
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Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz Band

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz Band - GeoLinks

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these reply comments in response to comments filed on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) released in the aforementioned docket.[1]

  1. INTRODUCTION

GeoLinks is the fastest growing Internet and phone provider in America and the fastest growing telecom in California.  In addition, GeoLinks was recently awarded Connect America Fund Phase II Auction funding to serve 3883 Census Blocks in California and Nevada.  The Company has a vested interest in ensuring that the FCC’s policies allow competitive broadband providers to access vital spectrum resources and believes that the 3.7-4.2 GHz band provides opportunity for such access, subject to certain rules and requirements.

  1. DISCUSSION

  2. GeoLinks Supports the BAC’s Proposed Solution to Allow Spectrum Access for Fixed Wireless Providers in the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band

Millions of Americans lack what is considered, by today’s standards, highspeed broadband access – especially in rural areas.  As GeoLinks has previously advocated, sparsely populated rural areas are not well suited for traditional, wired broadband service given the cost to build and deliver a cable/ fiber-based network, often resulting in these areas being left on the wrong side of the digital divide.  However, fixed wireless broadband technology can provide highspeed broadband to consumers in these areas for a fraction of the cost of traditional, wired networks. In addition, fixed wireless providers can (and do in some areas) offer competitive choice to consumers in urban and suburban areas.

Like other fixed wireless providers, GeoLinks’ technology platform depends on access to spectrum resources sufficient to support enterprise-level broadband connections. While spectrum resources do exist that have allowed fixed wireless providers to successfully deploy internet services in some areas, these resources have primarily been available on an unlicensed basis only.  Unlicensed bands are not a one-size-fits-all option as they are often subject to congestion and interference that can degrade wireless signals.

In order for fixed wireless broadband providers to truly compete with traditional, wired service providers, additional spectrum resources are needed. GeoLinks believes the 3.7-4.2 GHz band offers an opportunity for the Commission to allocate spectrum resources in a way that will promote competition and help bridge the digital divide while protecting current users of the band.

The BAC has set forth a “win-win-win solution that: (1) protects incumbent FCC operators from harmful interference; (2) clears a portion of the band for exclusive flexible use licensing; and (3) enables fixed P2MP broadband providers to deploy badly needed high-throughput broadband to unserved and underserved customers.”[2]  GeoLinks believes that this proposed solution strikes the right balance with respect to spectrum sharing, frequency coordination, buildout requirements, and Point-to-Multipoint (“P2MP”) deployment.  As such, GeoLinks supports the opening comments submitted by the BAC in response to the NPRM.

  1. The Commission Should Reject Any Arguments that Fixed Wireless Providers Already Have Access to All the Spectrum Resources They Need

GeoLinks urges the Commission to reject any argument that the spectrum resources that fixed wireless providers have now are “good enough.”  This status-quo mentality is exemplified in comments that appear to suggest that fixed wireless providers have all the spectrum they need or will get it eventually, so there is no need to look to the 3.7-4.2 GHz band for more.  Specifically, the C-Band Alliance explains that “any legitimate requirement for more spectrum for P2MP networks can be met using bands that are either currently available or are being considered for such operations.”[3]

GeoLinks strongly disagrees that fixed wireless providers have enough spectrum already.  As explained above, currently fixed wireless providers primarily have access to only unlicensed spectrum.  In situations where only unlicensed spectrum is available, most connections are limited to point-to-point (“P2P”) connections over short distances to avoid interference with other users.  While fixed wireless providers have had success with these P2P connections, considering them “good enough” fails to account for all of the benefits that the technology couldprovide.  First, even with extensive engineering and coordination, there is no guarantee that interference won’t occur at some point over unlicensed spectrum bands.  This is especially true in densely populated, urban areas where there are numerous users in the unlicensed band.  This interference can make it difficult and costly to engineer a dedicated link to a customer to ensure enterprise-grade broadband service – a service that a fixed wireless provider mustoffer to be competitive in urban markets.  Second, P2P connections require expensive transmission equipment for each link (vs. one for multiple links).  These costs can make it difficult for fixed wireless providers to competitively price broadband services, especially in residential markets where P2P equipment may be cost prohibitive for residential subscribers.

GeoLinks has advocated for the benefits of P2MP services in numerous filings before the Commission.  This technology creates opportunities to connect multiple users in a more cost-effective manner (even if miles apart), making it ideal for serving multiple customers in one area at a lower cost.  Despite the benefits of this technology, however, current spectrum policies hinder fixed wireless providers’ ability to take advantage of it.  For example, P2MP connections are more susceptible to congestion and interference caused from extensive use of the unlicensed bands, especially in urban, highly-populated areas. This makes high-quality P2MP connections over unlicensed spectrum nearly impossible in some areas, clearly refuting the concept that fixed wireless providers have all the spectrum they need.

Moreover, while there are a number of active proceedings before the Commission that may provide fixed wireless providers the ability to access additional licensed, light-licensed, or shared spectrum resources, many of those proceedings are also considering whether specific spectrum bands are better used for other uses (e.g. mobile wireless).  In addition, the outcomes of those proceedings are still very much pending before the Commission and the Commission should not foreclose the option of fixed wireless use in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band just because spectrum might be available in another band at some point.

The BAC’s suggested solution for the 3.7-4.2 GHz band addresses the current spectrum limitations experienced by fixed wireless providers by proposing practical options for P2MP use within the band that will not interfere with existing use by FSS Operators.  The Commission should reject any arguments that fixed wireless providers have enough spectrum now (or will eventually) and therefore the Commission should not consider expanded use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.  Instead, GeoLinks urges the Commission to look to implement the BAC’s proposal and adopt spectrum policy that promotes innovation and competition.

  1. The Commission Should Adopt Robust Build-Out Requirements for the Band

As GeoLinks has advocated before, the Company believes that spectrum rights should be subject to robust build-out and “use it or lose it” requirements.  In its opening comments, the BAC supports the NPRM’s 12-month build-out period and proposes other build out requirements including limitations on channel reservation periods, minimum build-out standards for P2MP licensees, and limitations on P2MP spectrum use until build out is complete.[4]  GeoLinks supports these suggested build-out requirements and urges the Commission to adopt them.

  • CONCLUSION

GeoLinks supports the BAC’s opening comments submitted on the NPRM and urges the Commission to adopt its win-win-win proposal for the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.

 

Respectfully submitted,

GEOLINKS, LLC

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

November 27, 2018

[1]Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 to 4.2 GHz Band, Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, GN Docket No. 18-122, FCC 18-91 (rel. July 13, 2018) (“NPRM”).
[2]Comments of the Broadband Access Coalition, GN Docket 18-122 (filed October 29, 2018) (“BAC Comments”) at 3.
[3]Comments of the C-Band Alliance, GN Docket 18-122 (filed October 29, 2018) at 45.
[4]SeeBAC Comments at 25.
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Procedures to Identify and Resolve Location Discrepancies in Eligible Census Blocks Within Winning Bid Areas

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

 

Procedures to Identify and Resolve Location ) WC Docket No. 10-90 Discrepancies in Eligible Census Blocks ) Within Winning Bid Areas

 

REPLY COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

 

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these reply comments in response to comments filed on the Public Notice released by the Wireline Competition Bureau (“Bureau”) regarding procedures to identify and resolve location discrepancies in eligible census blocks within Connect America Fund Phase II (“CAF II”) winning bid areas on September 10, 2018.[1]

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

Several commenters in the aforementioned proceeding share GeoLinks’ view that the Bureau should create a straightforward process for resolving location discrepancies that may exist in Phase II auction support areas.  GeoLinks believes that such a process is necessary to ensure that CAF II recipients and relevant stakeholders are able to gather and report accurate location-specific data.  As such, GeoLinks makes the following recommendations.

 

  1. DISCUSSION
  2. Prospective Developments

In the Public Notice, the Commission asks whether “actual locations should include prospective developments that have a reasonable certainty of coming into existence within the support term.”[2]  GeoLinks agrees with commenters that ask the Commission not to require CAF II recipients to include prospective developments into the definition of “actual location.”

In both California and Nevada, the states for which GeoLinks has been awarded CAF II funding, there have been many instances where housing developments have been planned, or even started, but then downsized, abandoned, or put on indefinite hold.  While many of these developments do eventually get built, as WISPA notes, there is no guarantee that information regarding new developments will stay constant past the one-year period of determining “locations” or that those plans won’t be modified to increase or decrease the number of housing units, small businesses, etc.[3]  As USTelecom explains, “Providers cannot be omnipresent in local real estate planning over the next year and auditing whether a provider could have, or should have, known about a prospective development would be extremely subjective.”[4] Moreover, other commenters advocate for the Bureau to “permit support recipients to rely on any reasonably current data source” and to avoid “imposing evidentiary burdens beyond those that are strictly necessary.”[5]

For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Bureau not to requirethat prospective developments be included in the definition of “actual location.”  However, if a CAF II recipient chooses to include prospective developments in its definition of actual locations, GeoLinks agrees with WISPA that it should be allowed to do so if it can provide information to show that specific prospective locations are more likely than not to be constructed and inhabited within the six-year buildout period.[6]

 

  1. Reliability and Validity of Data

In its opening comments, GeoLinks urged the Bureau not to limit broadband providers’ ability to determine what methodology may work best for them to gather information regarding the number of locations within an area so long as the provider can explain that methodology.  This sentiment was echoed by several commenters that offered numerous proposals beyond those methodologies that the Public Notice called “generally accepted.”[7]

US Telecom suggests that providers should be able to rely upon desktop geolocation or automated address geocoding.[8]  WISPA discusses the possibility of aerial imagery (which GeoLinks also suggested in its opening comments) in addition to the possibility of combining the findings from desktop geolocation using web-based maps and imagery with other qualitative criteria such as roof size or other visual evidence.[9] Verizon suggests refining initial analysis with web-based maps or targeted GPS data in the field.[10]  Hughes urges the Bureau to allow recipients to utilize third-party geocoding providers.[11]  Moreover, Commnet, explains that any process to collect required location-specific showings “must account for areas such Tribal Lands where standard street addresses are not available and commercial geocoding data are scant and unreliable.”[12]

GeoLinks believes that the proposal of many different options makes clear that there are many ways for CAF II recipients to verify location data.  So long as a CAF recipient’s selected methodology (or methodologies) can be explained, it should not be precluded from using any reasonable method.  Therefore, GeoLinks continues to urge the Bureau not to limit available methodologies to verify location data.

 

  1. Relevant Stakeholder’s Evidence

With respect to the definition of “relevant stakeholders,” GeoLinks strongly agrees with WISPA that this definition should be limited to individuals, state and local authorities, and Tribal governments, in the relevant supported area.[13]   Additionally, GeoLinks strongly agrees that “the evidence submitted by stakeholders should be the same as is required to be submitted by participants.”[14]  Both GeoLinks and WISPA urge the Bureau to require relevant stakeholders to submit a narrative description of the methodology they used to challenge the location information provided by a CAF II recipient and to certify under penalty of perjury that 1) the location data they are providing is accurate, 2) the stakeholder is located (or represent individuals that are located) within the relevant geographic area, and 3) that the stakeholder is not associated in any way with a competitor.[15]  As WISPA explains, “it should not be sufficient for a stakeholder to solely allegedeficiencies in the participant’s methodology.”[16]

 

  • CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks urges the Bureau to adopt the recommendations discussed herein, as agreed to by several parties to this proceeding, regarding procedures to identify and resolve location discrepancies in eligible census blocks within CAF II winning bid areas.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

November 13, 2018

[1]Public Notice, “Wireline Competition Bureau Seeks Comment on Procedures to Identify and Resolve Location Discrepancies in Eligible Census Blocks Within Winning Bid Areas,” WC Docket No. 10-90, DA 18-929 (rel. Sept. 10, 2018) (“Public Notice”).
[2]Public Notice at 5.
[3]See Comments of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, WC Docket 10-90 (filed Oct 29, 2018) (“WISPA Comments”) at 3.
[4]Comments of USTelecom, WC Docket 10-90 (filed Oct. 29, 2018) (“USTelecom Comments”) at 3.
[5]Comments of Verizon, WC Docket 10-90 (filed Oct. 29, 2018) (“Verizon Comments”) at 5 and Comments of Hughes Network Systems, WC Docket 10-90 (filed Oct. 29, 2018) (“Hughes Comments”) at 2, respectively.
[6]WISPA Comments at 3.
[7]SeePublic Notice at 11.
[8]USTelecom Comments at 4.
[9]WISPA Comments at 4-5.
[10]Verizon Comments at 3,
[11]Hughes Comments at 3
Comments of Commnet Wireless, Inc., WC Docket 10-90 (filed Oct. 29, 2018) at 2.
[13]SeeWISPA Comments at 6.  See alsoUSTelecom comments at 5.
[14]WISPA Comments at 7.
[15]SeeWISPA Comments at 6.
[16]WISPA Comments at 7 (emphasis added).
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Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group

FCC ANNOUNCES MEMBERSHIP OF THE BROADBAND DEPLOYMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE’S DISASTER RESPONSE AND RECOVERY WORKING GROUP - GeoLinksFCC ANNOUNCES MEMBERSHIP OF THE BROADBAND DEPLOYMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE’S DISASTER RESPONSE AND RECOVERY WORKING GROUP

Read Official Notice here: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-1121A1.docx.

Released:  November 1, 2018

GN Docket No. 17-83

This Public Notice serves as notice that Federal Communications Commission (Commission) Chairman Ajit Pai has appointed members to serve on the Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC).  The members of this working group are listed in the Appendix.

The BDAC is organized under, and operates in accordance with, the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).[1]  The BDAC’s mission is to provide advice and recommendations to the Commission on how to accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet access.[2]

The BDAC’s Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group is charged with making recommendations on measures that can be taken to improve resiliency of broadband infrastructure before a disaster occurs, strategies that can be used during the response to a disaster to minimize the downtime of broadband networks, and actions that can be taken to more quickly restore broadband infrastructure during disaster recovery.  It is also charged with developing best practices for coordination among wireless providers, backhaul providers, and power companies during and after a disaster.

More information about the BDAC is available at https://www.fcc.gov/broadband-deployment-advisory-committee.  You may also contact Paul D’Ari, Designated Federal Officer (DFO) of the BDAC, at [email protected] or 202-418-1550; or the Deputy DFOs Deborah Salons at [email protected] or 202-418-0637, or Jiaming Shang at [email protected] or 202-418-1303

 

MEMBERS OF THE DISASTER RESPONSE AND RECOVERY

WORKING GROUP

 

Chair:

Red Grasso, FirstNet State Point of Contact

North Carolina Department of Information Technology

 

Vice-Chair:

Jonathan Adelstein, President & Chief Executive Officer*

Wireless Infrastructure Association

 

Members:

 

Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

GeoLinks

 

Andrew Afflerbach, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Engineering, CTC Technology and Energy

National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors

 

Allen Bell, Distribution Support Manager, Georgia Power Company*

Southern Company

 

Megan Bixler, Technical Program Manager for Communications Center and 911 Services

Association of Public Safety Communications Officials

 

Patrick Donovan, Senior Director, Regulatory Affairs

CTIA

 

Tony Fischer, Director, Information Technology

City of Germantown, Tennessee

 

Monica Gambino, Vice President, Legal

Crown Castle

 

Larry Hanson, Executive Director*

Georgia Municipal Association

 

David Hartshorn, Chief Executive Officer

Geeks Without Frontiers

 

Greg Hauser, Communications Branch Manager/Statewide Interoperability Coordinator,

North Carolina Emergency Management Division

National Emergency Management Association

 

Kurt Jacobs, Corporate Director, Emerging Technology & Solutions

JMA Wireless

 

Richard Kildow, Director of Business Continuity & Emergency Management

Verizon

 

Frank Korinek, Director of Government Affairs

Motorola

 

Wyatt Leehy, Information Technology Manager

Great Plains Communications

 

David Marshack, Telecommunications Regulatory Lead

Loon

 

Jim Matheson, Chief Executive Officer*

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

 

Kelly McGriff, Vice President & Deputy General Counsel*

Uniti Group

 

Wendy Moser, Commissioner, Colorado Public Utilities Commission

National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners

 

Alexandra Fernandez Navarro, Commissioner

Puerto Rico Public Service Regulatory Board

 

John O’Connor, Director, National Coordinating Center for Communications

Department of Homeland Security

 

Eddie Reyes, Prince William County Emergency Communications Center

National Public Safety Telecommunications Council

 

Rikin Thaker, Vice President, Telecommunications and Spectrum Policy*

Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council

 

Pete Tomczak, Manager, Spectrum Coordination and Clearance

FirstNet

 

Rocky Vaz, Director of Emergency Management

City of Dallas, Texas

 

Joseph Viens, Senior Director of Government Affairs

Charter

 

Debra Wulff, Public Safety Director

Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

 

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Comments on The Eligibility For and Prioritization of Broadband

BEFORE THE

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

SERVICES FUND

 

September 21, 2018

  1. INTRODUCTION

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.[1]

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.”[2]  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.

  1. DISCUSSION
  2. 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.

  1. “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.”[3]  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.

  1. 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.[4]  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.

  1. 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.[5]

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.  

  1. 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.[6]

  • 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.[7]  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,[8]  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.

  • Latency

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.  

  1. 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.[9]  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.[10]  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.

  1. 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,[11] 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.

  • CONCLUSION

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.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

/s/ Melissa Slawson   

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

[1] For more information about fixed-wireless technology and GeoLinks’ Clearfiber™ network, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8GvGOKCpnk
[2] 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.
[3] Press Release, CPUC Acts to Expand Broadband Adoption Through California Advanced Services Fund, released June 21, 2018.
[4] See Ruling at 6.
[5] 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.
[6] See Connect America Fund, et al., Order on Reconsideration, FCC 18-5 (rel. January 31, 2018) (“CAF Recon Order”), at para. 29.
[7] 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.
[8] CAF Recon Order, at para. 4.
[9] Phase II of the February 14, 2018 Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling, Appendix C (“Staff Report”), at 14.
[10] 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.
[11] 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.
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Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund

 

August 8, 2018

BEFORE THE

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)

 

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. (U-7326-C) DBA GEOLINKS ON ASSIGNED COMMISSIONER RULING ON ELIGIBILITY FOR AND PRIORITIZATION OF CASF BROADBAND INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDS

 

California Internet, L.P. (U-7326-C) dba GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) respectfully submits these comments on the Assigned Commissioner Ruling Setting Workshops and Seeking Comment on Eligibility for and Prioritization of Broadband Infrastructure Funds from the California Advanced Services Fund (“ACR”), issued July 11, 2018.  Pursuant to the email ruling from July 26, 2018 by Administrative Law Judge Anthony Colbert extending the response date for the ACR to August 8, 2018, these comments are timely filed.

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

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 FCC licensed spectrum to deliver ultra-reliable high-speed broadband Internet access via radio waves.[1]

GeoLinks is proud to service the largest coverage area of any single fixed wireless Internet service provider in the state the California.  As a competitive broadband provider, GeoLinks is constantly seeking opportunities to expand its ever-growing fixed wireless broadband network to reach areas that are unserved by incumbent broadband providers or lack access to fiber connections.  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.

 

  1. DISCUSSION
    1. Eligibility and Challenge Process

Question 1.a.: 

Currently, ineligible census blocks are largely determined by a service provider’s claim(s) of serving households within such census blocks and information indicating subscriptions within these census blocks. However, not all households within such census blocks may have broadband internet access service (broadband service) available to them. Given the potential overstatement of ubiquitous availability within census blocks, should a census block only be CASF-eligible if the subscription rate within that census block is less than 40% of all households? We propose that a census block is considered served, if a majority of households in that block subscribe to wireline or fixed wireless Internet service. 

What should the CASF challenge process look like? Which trigger(s) should be used to start the challenge process for a CASF application? Which trigger(s) should be used to end the challenge process for a CASF application? Should the Commission create a single definitive list of CASF-eligible census blocks and a pre-application eligibility-map challenge process, as AT&T proposes? (See Opening Comments of AT&T on Phase II Staff Proposal, filed April 16, 2018, pp. 9-11).

Regarding the measurement of broadband availability, GeoLinks agrees with the assessment that under the current reporting process overstatement of availability is a possibility.  While some providers may truly offer service to every household within a census block, others may offer service to only a small subsect thereof (i.e. one household or one street).  In both cases, the whole census block would be deemed “served” for the purposes of CASF grant availability and broadband availability mapping.[2]  GeoLinks sees no value in the current “all or nothing” availability determination process and supports the suggestion set forth in the ACR that a census block should only be deemed “served” if availability within that census block meets some minimum percentage.

Specifically, the ACR suggests a 51% subscription threshold, which was modified to 40% in the July 25th workshop, to measure whether a census block is eligible for CASF funding.  As an initial matter GeoLinks cautions the Commission against conflating “subscription” with “availability.”  Subscription is not an exact measure for broadband availability as there are more factors than just “where infrastructure is” that dictate whether a consumer chooses to subscribe to the services offered.  That said, GeoLinks does not oppose the 40% proposal and believes that use of a subscription rate may be useful in incentivize existing service providers to improve their service offerings if they sense a threat of subsidized competition.  Specifically, it may encourage them to either increase broadband availability within the census block or ramp up broadband adoption efforts to increase subscribership.  In either event, GeoLinks believes that this will help the Commission towards its goal of ubiquitous broadband access.

Should the Commission adopt a benchmark subscription rate by which to determine whether or not a census block is eligible for CASF funding, GeoLinks urges the Commission to add this information to the California Broadband Map as a separate layer.  This will allow service providers interested in CASF funding to assess all census blocks available for funding.

Regarding the challenge process, GeoLinks does not oppose the 21-day challenge process proposed in the Phase II Staff Proposal (“Staff Proposal”) set forth in the Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling (“Scoping Ruling”), issued February 14, 2018, which would be triggered upon the filing of an application.  The ACR also specifically asks about AT&T’s proposal, as set forth in its Opening Comments on the Staff Proposal.  While GeoLinks does not oppose some of AT&T’s suggestions, on the whole, GeoLinks does not believe AT&T’s proposal is in the best interests of the CASF program.

AT&T proposes that the Commission create “a definitive list of all CASF-eligible census blocks each year before applications are submitted.”[3]  While GeoLinks sees value in having a definitive list of eligible census blocks, the Company does not support the concept that this list will only be updated annually.  As GeoLinks advocated in its opening comments on the Scoping Ruling, there should be more than one CASF application period per year.  Specifically, GeoLinks explained that a bi-annual submission process will incentivize more service providers to participate in the CASF program than a single, annual submission window.[4]  Unlike larger companies that may have their fiber builds planned out a year or more in advance given the time associated with deploying and undergrounding fiber, smaller companies that utilize other technologies, such as fixed wireless, may have more flexibility to take on projects throughout the year.  Moreover, because these smaller companies may have finite network design and deployment resources to dedicate to large builds, a bi-annual application process will allow these companies to determine if the latter portion of the year is better for network project.

AT&T’s proposal would mean the creation of one static list that would not necessarily be updated as service providers may, independently of the CASF program, improve their networks.  While this would make the challenge process more streamlined, it could also mean providing CASF subsidies in areas where broadband becomes available after the creation of the list OR could lead to disincentivizing independent network investment in areas that are CASF eligible.

GeoLinks strongly urges the Commission not to limit CASF applications to one time per year as this structure only serves to benefit the larger carriers.  In addition, while GeoLinks supports the idea of a definitive list of CASF-eligible areas, the Company believes that this list should be updated more than once a year.  If the Commission were to establish such as list as a means for challenging CASF grant applications, it must be updated regularly to ensure that new served areas are not subsidized.

Question 1.b.: 

What should the challenger have to prove (household subscription rate and broadband service speed) during the challenge process? What information should be required of the challengers to an application, other than what is currently proposed in the Staff Proposal? What information should be required of challengers to determine eligibility as indicated on the California Interactive Broadband Availability Map (as proposed by AT&T)? Could such a pre-application eligibility map challenge partially or entirely replace the post-application challenge? If yes, explain. Is the 21-day staff proposed challenge window timeline and challenge criteria also sufficient for the eligibility-map challenge process?  Should the challenges vary by technology? (e.g., should the burden of proof for a fixed wireless Internet service provider submitting a challenge be different than that of a wireline provider?) Why or why not?

As stated above, GeoLinks generally supports the challenge process set forth in the Staff Proposal.  In addition, GeoLinks believes that the 21-day challenge process is sufficient for challenging Broadband Map eligibility, as well, so long as all interested parties are notified when the map is updated and the 21-day process is not triggered until notice is provided.  Whatever challenge process the Commission decides on, GeoLinks asserts that challenge rules (and all CASF rules) must be technology neutral.

As GeoLinks explained in its opening comments on the Scoping Memo, the Commission has made clear its stated goal of administering the CASF program on a “technology neutral” basis.[5]  However, despite this mandate, both the Staff Proposal and now the ACR make recommendations or ask questions that are definitively not technology neutral.  Specifically, the Staff Proposal proposes per household cost thresholds for ministerial review that differ so drastically by technology type that it gives fiber-based projects an inherent advantage.[6]  Now, in the ACR, the Commission asks whether challenges should vary by technology and asks if the burden of proof should be different for fixed wireless providers.[7]  GeoLinks strongly argues that the answer to those questions should be a resounding no.

As an initial matter, the ACR does not explain what this different burden of proof may be or provide any information regarding how a challenge by a fixed wireless provider may differ from a challenge by a traditional, wireline provider.  Fixed wireless providers can provide all of the information that would be required in the Staff Proposal’s challenge report including the geographic location of all served households.  Moreover, fixed wireless providers submit Form 477 data to the FCC and supplemental mapping data to the Commission that can be compared to and concurrently mapped with data provided by wireline providers.  Without clarification, GeoLinks fails to see the need for or benefit in requiring a different standard for fixed wireless service providers that would not be required for other providers.  GeoLinks urges the Commission to adhere to its mandate to administer the CASF program on a technology neutral basis to avoid creating an unfair advantage for one technology type over another that would only serve to thwart interest in the CASF program.

  1. Prioritizing Projects and Areas to Support

GeoLinks supports the idea of prioritizing areas that the Commission or certain stakeholders believe to be priority areas for CASF funding.  While GeoLinks does not have specific areas or census blocks that it recommends be listed as priority areas at this time, the Company requests that if such lists are created that they be updated regularly to account for completed CASF projects, changes in broadband availability, changes in priority levels and/ or demographic information, etc.  This will ensure that the areas in the most need retain priority status while others that may no longer meet the criteria for priority status are downgraded.  Specifically, GeoLinks recommends that these areas be reviewed and updated annually based on updated broadband mapping data and input from broadband consortia groups, municipalities, and other interested stake holders.

  1. Providing Access to Broadband Service to Areas Adjacent to CAF II Areas

Question 3:

The number of eligible CAF II locations exceeds the number of required locations to which CAF II providers must offer service. Many census blocks may have more households than CAF II eligible locations, meaning that some households will not benefit. How can the Commission incentivize CAF II providers to build beyond their commitments to the Federal Communications Commission?  In order to incentivize CAF II providers to deploy throughout the community and in areas adjacent to CAF II areas, should the Commission:

  1. Provide an expedited review process to approve supplemental grants to expand CAF II-related projects?
  2. Should there be a separate process or set-aside of funding for these supplemental builds?
  3. Should supplemental grants be tied to the release of CAF II plans? Should areas where CAF II providers do not commit to build out be reclassified as eligible?
  4. How should the interests of the CAF II providers to choose which CAF II areas they build out to with federal funding while also requiring them to complete other projects in the state) be balanced with competitor interest in bidding to build out in those same communities?

As GeoLinks explained in its opening comments on the Scoping Memo, in adopting any rules related to the treatment of Connect America Fund Phase II (“CAF II”) recipients, GeoLinks urges the Commission to remember that these recipients made commitments to the FCC in exchange for receipt of CAF II funds.  Specifically, these providers agreed that in exchange for the model-based support they would “deploy voice and broadband-capable networks to all supported locations that are deemed ‘high-cost’ and not served by an unsubsidized competitor.”[8]  If a CAF II recipient fails to meet these commitments (either by only completing a portion of an area or not completing an area at all), the Commission should not allow them to game the system and benefit from CASF funding.

Regarding areas where CAF II recipients will complete the requisite buildout, the ACR clearly points to the issue with CAF II funding – that the number of locations the CAF II recipient is required to serve does match the actual number of eligible locations in the same area.  Inevitably, once the CAF II recipients have completed their commitments under CAF II, there will be gaps in broadband coverage.  From a CASF funding perspective, these areas may still be eligible for subsidy under the 40% minimum subscription threshold.  However, because finalization of CAF II obligations is not required until July 2020, this still presents the challenge of long delays before the Commission can address the issue.

GeoLinks believes that information regarding where a CAF II recipient plans to offer broadband within a CAF II area is crucial in CASF planning and sees benefit in offering CASF incentives to CAF II providers who are forthcoming with this information.  Namely, if a CAF II provider is willing to provide the Commission with detailed information regarding what locations within an eligible census block it plans to provide service to, pursuant to its CAF II obligations, then the Commission could offer the CAF II recipient incentives to build out to the remaining locations within an eligible area with CASF matching funds.

In its opening comments, GeoLinks suggested a mandatory waiting period to apply for CASF grants for CAF II providers that bowed out of their FCC commitments.  GeoLinks believes that a similar approach might be appropriate for CAF II recipients that choose (or not) to share information regarding its build out plans with the Commission.  For example, if the CAF II recipient provided this information to the Commission within a specified timeframe from the date of the final Decision in this proceeding (as determined by the Commission), then GeoLinks would support the ability for the CAF II provider to apply for CASF funding on an expedited basis to provide service to the entire eligible area.  However, GeoLinks believes that the incentives should diminish the longer a CAF II recipient waits to provide information to the Commission.  Also, if a CAF II recipient declines to inform the Commission about its buildout plans, GeoLinks urges the Commission to preclude the CAF II recipient from being able to apply for CASF funding for any of its remaining CAF II eligible locations and open those areas up to other CASF applicants as soon as possible.

 

  1. Middle-Mile Infrastructure

Question 5:

How should the Commission verify that a middle-mile build included in a proposed project is “indispensable” to that project, as required by statute? Should Commission Staff rely on the middle-mile location information providers submitted as ordered in D.16-12-025? If middle-mile infrastructure already exists near the proposed project area, under what circumstances may an applicant build its own middle-mile infrastructure? If middle-mile infrastructure already exists near the proposed project area, should there be a limit on how much infrastructure may be built? (e.g., 10 miles, 5 miles, etc.) For purposes of grant funding, is leasing or purchasing middle-mile facilities for terms beyond five years (e.g., IRU for 20 years) allowable or even preferred over building new infrastructure? Alternatively, is a challenge to the project application sufficient to prove it is not indispensable, or a lack of a challenge sufficient to prove that it is?

Access to middle-mile infrastructure is always integral to a proposed network build and broadband providers have to consider many factors when determining whether to attempt to interconnect with existing middle-mile or construct their own.  These factors may include middle-mile proximity, circuit availability, circuit reliability, lease terms, topography, population, available technology, and, of course, cost.  Regardless of the specific factors at play for a proposed project, they all must be weighed on a case-by-case basis.  GeoLinks urges the Commission to consider the factors that CASF applicants will need to weigh and refrain from creating overly-restrictive rules that may hinder a service provider’s ability to complete a proposed project.

As an initial matter, in GeoLinks’ experience, areas that are without high speed broadband connections are also generally without the infrastructure to provide high speed broadband.  This includes not only last mile facilities, but middle-mile, as well.  In these instances, middle-mile infrastructure is undeniably “indispensable” to a proposed project because, without it, there would be no project.

Moreover, even if there is backhaul or middle-mile infrastructure close to a project area, it does not necessarily mean that it is accessible.  GeoLinks recently constructed significant last mile network in the Inland Empire area of California, a predominantly agricultural region that suffered from a lack of last-mile fiber infrastructure.  After 8 months of unsuccessful discussions with the regional incumbent Local Exchange Carrier to negotiate interconnection, GeoLinks was able to obtain interconnection from a reseller.  In this instance, if interconnection had not been available from the reseller, last-mile connections to this area would not have been possible without the construction of extensive middle-mile facilities.  GeoLinks asserts that in such instances this middle-mile infrastructure would have been indispensable to the project despite the proximity of other middle-mile infrastructure.

GeoLinks suggests that the Commission determine whether middle-mile is “indispensable” to a project by requiring CASF applicants that propose to construct middle-mile as part of a proposed project to explain in their applications whether existing middle-mile options, if any, were considered and reasons why that middle-mile is either not a viable option or not cost effective.  GeoLinks believes that this approach will achieve the Commission’s goal of only funding “indispensable” middle-mile infrastructure while giving network providers the flexibility necessary to determine the best approach to building robust, high speed broadband networks.

//

  • CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks urges the Commission to consider these comments and implement final CASF rules that ensure flexibility for competitive carriers, technology neutral administration of the program, incentives for participation, and prevent gaming of the program to block competition.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

/s/ Melissa Slawson

 

Melissa Slawson

General Counsel/ V.P. of Government Affairs and Education

California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks

251 Camarillo Ranch Rd

Camarillo, CA 93012

 

August 8, 2018

 

[1] For more information about fixed-wireless technology and GeoLinks’ Clearfiber™ network, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8GvGOKCpnk
[2] Assuming minimum speed requirements are met.
[3] Opening Comments of AT&T on Phase II Staff Proposal (filed April 16, 2018), at 9.
[4] Opening Comments of GeoLinks on Phase II Staff Proposal (filed April 16, 2018), at 8.
[5] Interim Opinion Implementing California Advanced Services Fund, Decision 07-12-054 (rel. December 20, 2007), at 8: “The CASF shall be administered on a technology neutral basis by the Commission.”  See also Id. At 28: “CASF funding proposals will be reviewed based upon how well they meet the criteria for selection as set forth below, and, where applicable, compared with any competing claims to match the deployment offer under superior terms. Such criteria should be evaluated on a competitively neutral basis.” (Emphasis added).
[6] See Staff Proposal at Section 1.7.
[7] ACR at 5.
[8] Report and Order, Declaratory Ruling, Order, Memorandum Opinion and Order, Seventh Order on Reconsideration, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 29 FCC Rcd 7051 (rel. June 10, 2014), at para. 60.
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Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

In the Matter of Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules | WP Docket No. 07-100

 

REPLY COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these reply comments in response to the Commission’s Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the above-captioned proceeding.[1]

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

GeoLinks largely supports the comments filed by the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (“WISPA”) and Federated Wireless.  As an initial matter, and as both WISPA and Federated Wireless point out, the 4.9 GHz band is highly underutilized.[2]  To meet the Commission’s stated goal “to ensure that public safety continues to have priority in the band while opening up the band to additional users that will facilitate increased usage,” both parties propose sharing techniques that would allow commercial users to utilize the band while protecting public safety users from harmful interference.  GeoLinks believes that this approach is appropriate for the 4.9 GHz band and will help the Commission reach its stated goals.[3]

 

  1. DISCUSSION

As the Commission explains, the 4.9 GHz. Band has “fallen short of its potential.”[4]  Despite the fact that the Commission has recognized the underutilization of the band, some commenters attempt to persuade the Commission that the 4.9 GHz band should not be opened up to commercial use.  The Region 21 700 MHz Planning Committee appears to urge the Commission not to open the band up to any additional licensees claiming that “additional spectrum exists to accommodate these users.”[5]  In addition, the Utilities Technology Council, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and the GridWise Alliance (“UTC/EEI/NRECA/Gridwise”) assert that doing so “would threaten to diminish the reliability of the band, which would in turn discourage investment by utilities and public safety and indeed effectively displace them from the band as a practical matter.”[6]

GeoLinks asserts that the band can be utilized for commercial users while also ensuring protection for public safety users.  By utilizing an automated spectrum management database system, such as those proposed by WISPA and Federated Wireless, the band could support “dynamic secondary use of the 4.9 GHz band while ensuring that primary public safety users maintain priority access and are able to operate across the band without interference from secondary users.”[7]  As Federated Wireless explains, dynamic shared spectrum is already well understood and is becoming more readily recognized for its capabilities to effectuate enhanced spectrum usage and protect users from harmful interference.[8]

In addition, GeoLinks believes that opening up the 4.9 GHz band to commercial users will encourage investment in the band by all users, not diminish it as UTC/EEI/NRECA/Gridwise suggests.  Specifically, allowing commercial users (i.e. those with commercial capital) to utilize the band will promote technological improvement by driving up demand for compatible equipment, which, in turn, will drive down price.  Moreover, as both WISPer and Federated Wireless point out, the 4.9 GHz band is in “spectral proximity” to the 5 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands.[9]   GeoLinks believes that use of the 4.9 GHz band by commercial entities will encourage equipment manufacturers to create equipment that is also compatible for these other bands, increasing equipment efficiency and encouraging additional investment in the band.  This will benefit not only commercial users but primary, public safety users, as well.

 

  • CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks urges the Commission to allow for commercial use of the 4.9 GHz band on a secondary basis through dynamic spectrum sharing.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

August 6, 2018

[1] Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules, Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WP Docket No. 07-100, FCC 18-33 (rel. March 23, 2018) (“FNPRM”).
[2] See Comments of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) (“WISPA Comments”) at 2 and Comments of Federated Wireless, Inc., WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) (“Federated Wireless Comments”) at 3.
[3] While GeoLinks proposed that sharing within the band be conducted on a licensed or light-licensed approach, the Company is not opposed to implementation of a dynamic spectrum sharing approach.  That said, GeoLinks urges the Commission to continue to consider licensed or light-licensed approaches for other bands that are well-suited for fixed wireless broadband use.
[4] FNPRM at para 1.
[5] Comments of Region 21 700 MHz Planning Committee, WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) at 3.
[6] Comments of the Utilities Technology Council, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Gridwise Alliance, WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) at 3.
[7] WISPA Comments at 5.
[8] See Federated Wireless Comments at 6.
[9] See WISPA at Comments at 6 and Federated Wireless Comments at 17.
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Advance Improved Broadband Services in U-NII-1 and U-NII-3 Bands

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

 

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

 

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these comments in support of the Petition for Rulemaking (“Petition”) filed by RADWIN LTD. (“RADWIN”).[1]

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

GeoLinks is proud to service the largest coverage area of any single fixed wireless Internet service provider in the state the California.  The Company’s fixed wireless technology platform depends on access to spectrum resources sufficient to support enterprise-level broadband connections.[2]  For the reasons set forth herein, GeoLinks supports the rule changes proposed in the Petition and urges the Commission to open a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this matter.

 

  1. DISCUSSION

In the Petition, RADWIN requests that “the FCC modify its rules to allow for the provision of improved broadband services in the U-NII-1 (5.15-5.25 GHz) and U-NII-3 (5.725 and 5.85 GHz) Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure (“U-NII”) bands.”[3]  Specifically, RADWIN seeks “modification of Section 15.407 of the rules to allow devices that emit multiple directional beams sequentially in the U-NII-1 and U-NII-3 bands to operate at power limits that are allowed for point-to-point systems in those bands.”[4]  GeoLinks supports this rule change.

As an initial matter, and as GeoLinks has advocated in numerous proceedings before the Commission, point-to-multipoint (“P2MP”) technology is ideal to meet the ever-growing need for high-speed broadband throughout the country, especially for rural, unserved areas.  While point-to-point (“P2P”) connections have been successful for fixed wireless providers in the 5 GHz band, for example, this approach is limited in its application.  Specifically, P2P connections are cost effective for a single connection point (e.g. one school, community anchor institution, or business), but they are not, comparatively, for multiple connections (e.g. multiple residences throughout a community) as they require additional transmission equipment and infrastructure to reach each additional user.  P2MP connections, on the other hand, create opportunities to connect multiple users from one transmission point without the need for additional infrastructure.  This may include numerous homes or buildings within a densely populated area or homes in rural areas that are, sometimes, miles apart.  GeoLinks believes that policies that foster the use of this technology fall squarely within the Commission’s stated goal to “encourages and facilitate an environment that stimulates investment and innovation in broadband technology and services.”[5]

As discussed in the Petition, P2MP systems that utilize electronically steered sequential multiple directional beams will allow users, such as fixed wireless providers, to provide high-quality, broadband connections over the U-NII-1 and U-NII-3 bands with less risk of creating or receiving harmful interference (compared to traditional P2MP systems).  Because fixed wireless providers, such as GeoLinks, have no incentive to cause interference (which would only serve to diminish their own signals), the Company believes that the industry as a whole will take great care in coordinating frequencies and transmission paths in order to operate these sequential multiple directional beams in the bands, pursuant to revised rules.  For these reasons, GeoLinks supports the Petition and urges the Commission to open a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on this matter.

 

  • CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks supports the RADWIN Petition and urges the Commission to open a rulemaking to consider the rules changes proposed therein.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

July 30, 2018

[1] See Public Notice, Report No. 3097 (rel. June 29, 2018).
[2] While GeoLinks supports expanded use of unlicensed spectrum frequencies such as those proposed in the Petition, GeoLinks does not believe that unlicensed spectrum is a one-size-fits-all solution.  GeoLinks urges the Commission to continue to evaluate licensed spectrum opportunities available to broadband providers of all technologies, including fixed wireless, in order to ensure competition in the broadband market to meet the differing needs of differently situated communities (i.e. rural vs. urban).
[3] Petition at 1.
[4] Id. at 2.
[5] Modification of Parts 2 and 15 of the Commission’s Rules for Unlicensed Devices and Equipment Approval, Report and Order, 19 FCC Rcd 13539 (2004), at para 1.
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Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

 

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these comments in response to the Commission’s Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the above-captioned proceeding.[1]

 

  1. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks is proud to service the largest coverage area of any single fixed wireless Internet service provider in the state the California.  The Company’s fixed wireless technology platform depends on access to spectrum resources sufficient to support enterprise-level broadband connections.  However, to date, access to dedicated spectrum resources has been difficult for small and mid-sized companies, such as GeoLinks.  In addition to other bands for which GeoLinks has advocated spectrum policies that would allow fixed wireless broadband providers to obtain spectrum, GeoLinks believes that the 4.9 GHz band offers a means to allow providers to access this vital resource in a way that also protects incumbent public safety users.

 

  1. DISCUSSION
  2. The Commission Should Allow Sharing of the 4.9 GHz Band on a Licensed or Light-Licensed Basis

In the FNPRM, the Commission seeks comment on ways to “stimulate expanded use of and investment in the 4.9 GHz band” and proposes to implement a sharing mechanism to “promote more opportunistic use of the 4.9 GHz band without compromising the integrity and security of public safety operations.”[2]  GeoLinks believes that allowing commercial users to share the band on a secondary basis to public safety licensees would be the most appropriate and most effective use of the band to reach the Commission’s goal.  Specifically, GeoLinks asserts that such sharing should be allowed on a licensed or light-licensed basis.

As GeoLinks has explained in numerous filings, point-to-multipoint (“P2MP”) service options are ideal because they allow a wireless service provider to provide high-speed broadband connections to several end-users (i.e. several households throughout a community) from one location, requiring fewer towers and less equipment than point-to-point (“P2P”) connections.  If sufficient spectrum is available, providers can use P2MP technology to deliver gigabit and near-gigabit speeds to customers.  In addition, because P2MP services are wireless, use of this technology eliminates the need for costly, time-consuming and disruptive construction that is generally associated with fiber buildouts.  This is especially beneficial in rural and high-cost areas and can provide much-needed competition to incumbent providers in urban and suburban areas.

Uncertainty regarding how and where and when spectrum will be used by other users makes it difficult to efficiently manage P2MP connections over longer distances, requiring providers to utilize shorter P2P connections to avoid interference, which are less efficient and more expensive to deploy.  This is especially true in unlicensed bands.  However, under a licensed or lightly-licensed sharing regime with the appropriate frequency coordination in place, commercial users, such as fixed wireless providers, can utilize available spectrum to provide these high-quality, P2MP broadband connections without the risk of causing or receiving harmful interference.  GeoLinks believes that this approach should be applied to the 4.9 GHz band.

 

  1. Successful Sharing of the 4.9 GHz Band Requires Adequate and Accurate Information to Ensure Efficient Frequency Coordination

Sufficient frequency coordination paired with a licensed or light-licensed regime would allow secondary users to operate P2MP (or P2P) wireless connections in the band without the risk of interference to primary, public safety users.  As an initial matter, GeoLinks agrees that any changes made to use within the 4.9 GHz band should not force incumbent licensees to modify, abandon, or replace existing 4.9 GHz facilities.[3]  GeoLinks (as well as other wireless broadband providers) can coordinate its use of a frequency around any fixed point (i.e. the transmission path of a primary licensee) or around any primary use that may be necessary to avoid harmful interference.  However, in order to ensure successful coordination so that incumbent licensees are protected, additional users of the band must know where within the band incumbents are operating.  Therefore, GeoLinks agrees with the Commission’s proposal that incumbent licensees whose authorizations currently encompass the entire 4.9 GHZ band must certify the channels they actually use and input this information into a frequency coordination database (along with transmitter and receiver parameters).[4]

 

  1. The Commission Should Require Strict Buildout Requirements for Any New Users of the 4.9 GHz Band.

As GeoLinks has advocated in previous filings, any spectrum license should carry with it the requirement to serve the public interest – including for shared or light licensed spectrum.  Spectrum is, first and foremost, a public resource and should be allocated accordingly.  Similar to its recommendations for other bands, GeoLinks proposes that the Commission impose minimum buildout requirements for any commercial licensee utilizing the 4.9 GHz band.  Specifically, GeoLinks recommends that this minimum be set high enough to ensure that unserved areas (if applicable) within any license area are not left behind.  GeoLinks believes that these requirements will encourage use of the 4.9 GHz band by commercial users serious about deploying high-speed broadband services and alleviate any risk of spectrum warehousing.  In addition, GeoLinks urges the Commission to implement a reporting process to track whether buildout requirements are met (and met properly).

/

/

/

/

  • CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks urges the Commission to allow for commercial use of the 4.9 GHz band on a secondary basis under a licensed or light-licensed sharing approach.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

July 6, 2018

[1] Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules, Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WP Docket No. 07-100, FCC 18-33 (rel. March 23, 2018) (“FNPRM”).
[2] FNPRM, at para 3.
[3] FNPRM at para 11
[4] Id.  Moreover, GeoLinks agrees that only those channels for which information has been supplied should be afforded protection.
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Establishing Just and Reasonable Rates for Local Exchange Carriers

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

 

REPLY COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these replies to comments filed in response to the Commission’s NPRM proposing reforms to the Commission’s competitive overlap process in legacy rate-of-return (“RoR”) study areas.[1]

  1. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks is proud to service the largest coverage area of any single fixed wireless Internet service provider in the state the California and was recently named one of the ten most trusted networking solution providers for 2018.[2]  As the Company has grown its territory has grown, as well, expanding availability of its broadband and VoIP offerings into many rural areas of the state.

As GeoLinks has noted in several proceedings before the Commission, sparsely populated rural areas are not well suited for traditional, wired broadband service given the cost to build and deliver a cable/ fiber-based network.  However, fixed wireless broadband technology can often provide high-speed broadband to consumers in these areas for a fraction of the cost.  Therefore, GeoLinks believes that the Commission should consider changes to the high-cost program that reflect efficiencies that may be offered by competitive carriers.

  1. DISCUSSION
  2. The Commission Should Revise the 100% Overlap Process

Many commenters voice strong opinions regarding the Commission’s 100% overlap process and it is clear that there is stark contrast between the opinions of RoR incumbent local exchange carriers (“ILECs”) and competitive carriers in this regard.  As an initial matter, GeoLinks commends the Commission on its inquiry into whether this challenge process should be revised and urges the Commission to make a determination based on what challenge process will “maximize available funding for broadband networks.”[3]  Specifically, GeoLinks urges the Commission to revise its 100% overlap process to account for current competitive realities.

As the Commission explains, “to date there has been little participation by unsubsidized competitors.”[4] The RoR ILECs try to explain that this lack of participation is indicative of some shortcoming on the part of competitive carriers.  WTA provides examples of unsuccessful attempts to prove 100% overlap.[5]  However, instead of showing that the problem is the “nature and quality” of the services offered by competitive carriers,[6] these examples illustrate the inherent problem with the current 100% overlap process – that it ignores the overlap that does exist, no matter how significant, if it is anything less than 100%.

The reality is that the 100% overlap process does not account for the way in which competitive carriers structure their networks and service territories.  Unlike ILECs, competitive carriers do not have “study areas.”  Instead, competitive carriers’ networks have formed based on consumer demand and market forces.  As such, a competitive carrier may have a large network area that overlaps a portion of an RoR ILEC’s service area (perhaps a significant portion) but may not cover 100% of the study area.  In addition, as the Commission notes, while one competitive carrier may not cover a signification portion of a RoR ILEC study area by itself, a combination of competitive carriers might.[7]  The lack of overlap by one competitive carrier of an entire study area should not negate the reality that overlap is occurring and that competition exists within those areas of overlap.

As even NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association notes, “the entire point of the competitive overlap process is to ensure that support does not flow to areas where overlap exists.”[8]  It is difficult for GeoLinks to understand the argument by RoR ILECs that less than 100% overlap should be ignored while also acknowledging that the fund should not subsidize areas where overlap occurs.[9]  For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to revise its 100% overlap process.

  1. The Commission Should Establish an Auction Mechanism for Support in Areas Where Significant Overlap Occurs

As NCTA notes, RoR ILECs are “continuing to receive support in areas that are significantly served by other providers that receive no high-cost support.”[10]  This is an inefficient use of funds in areas where there may be significant overlap.  As WISPA notes, “a reverse auction mechanism in areas where there is significant, but less than 100%, competitive overlap will better serve consumer needs while more effectively making use of the limited funds available to promote high-quality fixed broadband deployment in high-cost areas.”[11]  GeoLinks strongly agrees with WISPA and NCTA that the Commission should introduce an auction approach in any study area where there is significant, but less than 100%, overlap.”[12]

As explained above, competitive solutions, such as those offered by fixed wireless broadband technology, can often provide high-speed broadband to consumers in sparsely populated areas for a fraction of the cost of traditional fiber/cable-based networks.  The same concept is applicable to the RoR ILEC study areas at issue here.  As NCTA suggests, in these areas, non-incumbent carriers could compete to receive only the amount of funding needed to serve high-cost and unserved areas (which may be significantly less than what it might cost a RoR ILEC to serve the same area).[13]  GeoLinks believes this would promote more efficient use of high-cost funds, which could ultimately free up additional funding for additional broadband deployment efforts.

Moreover, in considering an auction mechanism, the Commission should disregard RoR ILEC’s weak arguments that competitive carriers are somehow unable to offer service in unserved areas.  As made clear in the Connect American Fund II Auction proceeding, numerous competitive carriers have been deemed financially and operationally qualified to bid on eligible areas.[14]  Obviously, the Commission has seen the benefits of what competitive providers can offer and should not now be persuaded otherwise.

  • CONCLUSION

In conclusion, GeoLinks urges the Commission to revise its 100% overlap process and create an auction mechanism that will allows for more efficient used of high-cost funds.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

/s/ Melissa Slawson, General Counsel/ V.P of Government Affairs and Education

 

June 25, 2018

[1] See Connect America Fund, et al., Report and Order, Third Order on Reconsideration, and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 18-29 (rel. March 23, 2018) (“NPRM”).
[2] Insights Success, available at https://www.insightssuccess.com/the-10-most-trusted-networking-solution-providers-2018-june2018/.
[3] NPRM at para 4.
[4] NPRM at para 161.
[5] See Comments of WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband, GN Docket No. 10-90 (filed May 25, 2018), at 36 (“WTA Comments”).
[6] See WTA Comments at 35-36.
[7] NPRM at para 161.
[8] Comments of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, GN Docket No. 10-90 (filed May 25, 2018), at 59 (“NTCA Comments”).
[9] See id. at 57-58.
[10] Comments of NCTA – the Internet and Television Association, GN Docket No. 10-90 (filed May 25, 2018) at 4 (“NCTA Comments”).
[11] Comments of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, GN Docket No. 10-90 (filed May 25, 2018), at 1 (“WISPA Comments”).
[12] See WISPA Comments at 1 and NCTA Comments at 4.
[13] NCTA Comments at 4.
[14] See Connect America Fund Phase II Auction Status of Short-Form Applications to Participate in Auction 90, Public Notice, WC Docket No. 10-90 (rel. May 14, 2018).
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