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GeoLinks Comments on Auction of Priority Access Licenses

GeoLinks FCC Comments - Auction of Priority Access Licenses for the 3550-3650 MHz Band 

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 certain Comments filed on the Public Notice seeking public input on procedures to be used for the auction of Priority Access Licenses (“PALs”) in the 3550-3650 MHz band.[1]

INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to open the 3550-3650 MHz band and release this valuable spectrum to the market for advanced services.  However, as proposed in the Public Notice, some of the auction processes may have the unintended consequence of making the majority of the 3550-3650 MHz band (at least in certain markets) only obtainable by large companies with vast amounts of capital.  As such, GeoLinks agrees with commenters that the Commission should reject its Cellular Market Area (“CMA”)-level bidding proposal and urges the Commission to refrain from imposing bidding credit caps on small and rural service providers.

 

DISCUSSION

The Commission Should Refrain from Adopting CMA-Level Bidding

The vast majority of commenters agree with GeoLinks that CMA-level bidding should be rejected for a number of reasons.  First, CMA-level bidding will disadvantage smaller bidders, a concept that the Commission has previously acknowledged.  As DSA points out “the Commission explicitly acknowledged the harms of increasing the size of PAL areas beyond counties, stating that ‘the incremental benefit for 5G mobile use of going from counties to MSAs or PRAs would be far less than the incremental costs incurred by other potential users of the band.’”[2]  Further, as NCTA points out, “the Commission explained that ‘increasing PAL license area size further…could disproportionately favor mobile use cases and hinder investment in innovative fixed networks and localized deployments.’”[3]  This is because CMA-level bidding may have the unintended consequence of driving up PAL prices for rural counties that fall within CMAs that encompass more metropolitan counties.  As CCA explains, CMA-level bidding “risks distorting prices for less-densely populated counties subject to CMA bidding, and in so doing, could reduce auction participation and undermine investment and deployment by the very companies in the best position to improve wireless service in America.”[4]  This risk is clearly illustrated by RWA, which provides several examples in its comments to illustrate how “numerous rural counties…would be tied to pricier metropolitan package bid areas for which large and nationwide carriers would be competing, and therefore effectively unavailable to small and rural bidders.”[5]

Moreover, as WISPA and DSA explain, “CMA-level bidding will make it more challenging for companies that may desire to acquire PALs in rural counties that would be less desirable for large carriers looking to establish a larger geographic footprint of licenses,” which could “foreclose, or at least greatly diminish, the ability of competitive and smaller ISPs and other local entities to win PALs in the 172 CMAs.”[6]  Further, as Southern Linc explains, the CMA-level bidding proposal “undoubtedly provides a significant advantage to bidders with larger war chests than have an incentive to bid for larger areas in order to achieve economies of scale.”[7]  The result will be an auction that takes the band “further from its ‘Citizens’ roots,” as API notes.

Second, the Commission’s CMA-level bidding proposal is overly complex.  While AT&T praises the Commission for offering bidders “the flexibility to bid utilizing two different market area structures,” the creation of two distinct auction processes and two distinct types of bidders may lead to confusion or a lack of participation in the auction.  As Verizon explains, “the proposal for [CMA]-level bidding is not package bidding” and would add “unnecessary complexity to an already-complex auction.”[8]  While the Commission sites as a benefit to CMA-level bidding the ability to obtain “an aggregation of counties, rather than having to bid for the counties separately,”[9] it fails to explain how this benefit (which will only really be a benefit for a few auction participants) will help further the goals of the Auction.  As NCTA points out, auction complexity caused by the Commission’s CMA-level bidding proposal will have “unintended inefficiencies – including inhibiting price and demand discovery – without providing the correspondence benefit of reducing the overall number of potential biddable items.[10]

Third, CMA-level bidding is simply not needed for bidders to obtain PALs across an aggregation of counties.  As WISPA explains, “PALs in multi-county areas can be assembled through county-level bids that afford bidders greater flexibility to design bids in a way that does not include undesirable counties in the CMA-level bid.”[11]  And as DSA explains, “large bidders have access to sophisticated auction resources to track auction progress and generate bids that they upload each round into the Commission’s bidding system.”[12]  GeoLinks agrees with DSA that “the Commission’s CMA-level bidding proposal is a solution in search of a problem,” because “the Commission itself provides no justification for the proposal in the Public Notice.”[13]  As OTI explains, the proposal yields “no substantial benefits in reducing burdens for the Commission or even for the largest mobile carriers that set out to acquire PALs in every county in a CMA.[14]  The fact is that CMA-level bidding is just not needed and could cause more harm than good.

For these reasons the Commission should refrain from adopting its CMA-level bidding proposal.

The Commission Should Not Establish Bidding Credit Caps

GeoLinks maintains its position that if the Commission truly wants to release “flexible-use mid-band spectrum to the market” in order to further “deployment of fifth-generation wireless, the Internet of Things, and other advanced spectrum-based services,” it must allow the playing field to remain level throughout the entire auction process and eliminate the bidding credit caps it proposes in the Public Notice.[15]  Specifically, GeoLinks urges the Commission to refrain from imposing bidding caps on could-be auction winners that may otherwise not be able to match the bidding power of large companies.

RWA asserts that caps are necessary because “in prior auctions, deep-pocketed applicants that nevertheless qualified as small businesses were able to freeze out the small and rural providers that actually serve the areas.”[16]  However, this argument does not actually explain why caps are needed or why they are the appropriate solution.  It seems that instead of encouraging the Commission to adopt caps to ensure there is no gaming of the bidding credits in Auction 105, RWA should be asking the Commission to take steps necessary to ensure that small and rural providers are the ones receiving those credits.  GeoLinks would agree with such an ask and urges the Commission to adopt safeguards to ensure that bidding credits only go to small and rural service providers that fall within the Commission’s intended definition.  This will ensure that RWA’s concerns are addressed without hamstringing small and rural carriers in the Auction 105 process.

For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to refrain from imposing caps of the amount of bidding credit a small business or rural service provider may receive.  If the Commission does determine that bidding credit caps must be implemented, at a minimum, GeoLinks urges the Commission to increase them significantly.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to reject its CMA-level bidding proposal and refrain from imposing bidding credit caps on small and rural service providers.

 

Respectfully submitted,

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks                                                  

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

 

November 12, 2019

 

[1] Public Notice, Auction of Priority Access Licenses for the 3550-3650 MHz Band; Comment Sought on Competitive Bidding Procedures for Auction 105; Bidding in Auction 105 Scheduled to Begin June 25, 2020, AU Docket 19-244, FCC 19-96 (rel. Sept. 27, 2019) (“Public Notice”).
[2] Comments of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, AU Docket No. 19-244 (filed Oct. 28, 2019) (“DSA Comments”) at 4, citing Report and Order, GN Docket No. 17-258 (Rel. Oct. 24, 2018) at para. 27.
[3] Comments of NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, AU Docket No. 19-244 (filed Oct. 28, 2019) (“NCTA Comments”) at 4, citing Promoting Investment in the 3550-3700 MHz Band, Report and Order, 33 FCC Rcd. 10,598 (2018) at paras. 20 and 39.
[4] Comments of the Competitive Carriers Association, AU Docket No. 19-244 (filed Oct. 28, 2019) (“CCA Comments”) at 4.
[5] Comments of the Rural Wireless Association, Inc., AU Docket No. 19-244 (filed Oct. 28, 2019) (“RWA Comments”) at 3-4; see also at 4-9.
[6] Comments of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, AU Docket No. 19-244 (filed Oct. 28, 2019) (“WISPA Comments”) at 4 and DSA Comments at 5.
[7] Comments of Southern Communications Services, Inc. dba Southern Linc, AU Docket No. 19-244 (filed Oct. 28, 2019) at 4.
[8] Comments of Verizon Communications, Inc., AU Docket No. 19-244 (filed Oct. 28, 2019) at 2-3.
[9] Public Notice at para 29.
[10] NCTA Comments at 3-4
[11] WISPA Comment at 3.
[12] DSA Comments at 11.
[13] Id. at 10
[14] Comments of the Open Technology Institute at New America, AU Docket No. 19-244 (filed Oct. 28, 2019) at 8.
[15] Public Notice at para. 1.
[16] RWA Comments at 3.

GeoLinks Comments on the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund - GeoLinks 

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 submitted on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) issued August 2, 2019 in the aforementioned proceedings.[1]

INTRODUCTION

GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to deploy high speed broadband to the remaining unserved areas of the country.  As a Connect America Fund Phase II (“CAF”) auction award winner, GeoLinks recognizes how the proposed Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) Auction rules will impact small to medium sized service providers.  GeoLinks supports the creation of the RDOF and largely supports all of the Commission’s proposals with respect to its implementation thereof.  However, GeoLinks provides input on some of the Commission’s proposals that could result in diminished participation in the RDOF auction or inefficient use of Universal Service Fund (“USF”) support.

DISCUSSION

A. The RDOF Auction Must Remain Technology Neutral

The RDOF Auction process, as proposed in the NPRM, is built off of the Commission’s success in the CAF auction that concluded last year.  As such, the NPRM proposes a number of processes designed to obtain similar successful results to more areas with a larger and more robust fund.  While this effort should be applauded throughout the telecommunication industry, unfortunately some commenters have decided to use the NPRM as an opportunity to attempt to sway the Commission away from running the RDOF auction in a technology neutral manner.

For example, NRECA boldly asserts that “the FCC should not grant applications in which the applicant is proposing to utilize new, unproven technologies or proposing data rates beyond generally accepted standards for the technology.”[2]  NRECA goes on to say that “winning bids should only go to proven technologies that have been extensively deployed and field-proven to deliver quality services meeting all EDOF requirements.”[3]  Notably, NRECA fails to state specifically what technologies it refers to, what these perceived “generally accepted standards” are, or what “extensively deployed” or “field-proven” mean.  These statements are made simply to plant a seed of doubt into trusting any technology that is seen as an alternative to traditional fiber technology.  Similarly, the North Dakota Joint Commenters (“NDJC”) assert that RDOF should only support “future-proof fiber.”[4]  Moreover, Windstream urges the Commission to limit support to small providers “with limited existing infrastructure.”[5]

These commenters, and others, seek to limit RDOF opportunities for diverse technology types and turn the Commission’s favor to “traditional” technology types with “traditional” deployment processes.  What these commenters fail to address, however, is that these “traditional” efforts have not been successful to ensure broadband deployment to unserved parts of the US, which is why the RDOF is being proposed in the first place.  GeoLinks urges the Commission to retain the technology neutral approach it sets forth in the NPRM and rely on its proposed financial and technological requirements to vet which service providers and which technologies are eligible for RDOF support.

B. The Commission Should Not Implement Subscribership Milestones as a Basis for RDOF Funding

GeoLinks asserts that the Commission should refrain from making funding contingent upon RDOF recipients attaining set subscribership milestones.  From a statutory perspective, RDOF funds should only be used for broadband deployment. GeoLinks agrees with WISPA that Section 254 of the Communications Act limits the use of RDOF support for “the provision, maintenance, and upgrading of facilities and services for which the support is intended.”[6]  Specifically, WISPA asserts that “the [USF] was established to subsidize availability of telecommunications services in high-cost areas,” not adoption.[7]  Therefore, based on the language of Section 254, a subscription requirement should not be a requirement for RDOF funding.

From a policy perspective, several Commenters agree that imposing subscribership milestones will not serve the goals of the program.[8]  As an initial matter, lack of subscribership in an area is not necessarily attributable to the efforts, or lack thereof, of a service provider.  As CenturyLink explains, providers “have every incentive to sell their service to customers in program areas where they have deployed the network facilities required to provide the requisite broadband service in high-cost areas.”[9]  However, as the California Emerging Technology Fund astutely notes, “borrowing a line from the movie ‘Field of Dreams,’ just because you build it, does not mean that subscribers will come.”[10]  Similarly, WTA uses the adage “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” to show that “no matter what a [service provider] may do to deploy, operate and advertise their broadband services,” they may not have control over broadband adoption in RDOF areas.[11]  As GeoLinks points out in its opening comments, low take rates may occur due to a number of factors including consumers in RDOF areas not understanding the benefits of highspeed broadband connections or potential competition either from new entrants after deployment or from existing service providers offering slow speed options (i.e. sub 25/3 Mbps, which customers may opt to keep though faster speeds will be available).  Any of these factors can affect take rate.

In addition, imposition of a minimum subscribership requirement will only serve to discourage participation in the RDOF auction.  As WISPA explains, “if the Commission requires RDOF recipients to meet subscribership benchmarks, participation in the auction may be significantly depressed.”[12]  Similarly, NCTA notes that such a requirement “would add a level of uncertainty into the funding mechanism, including how much support would be needed to spur adoption in an area, and could potentially deter bidders.”[13]

For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission not to adopt a mandatory subscription rate as part of the RDOF auction process.  Instead, the Commission can encourage broadband providers to take steps to secure higher subscription rates by implementing its proposed requirements that recipients deploy networks capable of supporting a 70% subscription rate and advertise the availability of their services in RDOF areas.

C.  In Order to Encourage More Rapid Deployment and Efficient Use of RDOF Funds, the Commission Should Not Impose the Letter of Credit Requirement

Several Commenters share GeoLinks’ concerns regarding the letter of credit (“LOC”) requirement proposed in the NPRM.  As GeoLinks noted in its opening comments, LOCs can carry significant burdens for service providers – especially small and medium sized service providers.  GeoLinks asserts that the proposed LOC structure will do nothing to promote the Commission’s goal of encouraging rapid deployment of broadband networks.  Instead, the Commission should consider alternative options to protect disbursed funds.

In the NPRM, the Commission considers options that will encourage faster build out from RDOF recipients.[14]  GeoLinks asserts that one way to encourage faster buildout is to refrain from requiring RDOF recipients to obtain LOCs.  As GeoLinks explains in its opening comments, one of the burdens that LOCs impose on service providers is the potential to hinder the ability to secure additional types of funding to procure equipment and other network essentials early in the buildout process.  This view is shared by Windstream, which explains that LOCs affect “a provider’s ability to finance its deployment obligations” by making the provider “a less attractive borrower, because the lender knows that the provider has a substantial (albeit contingent) outstanding financial obligation.”[15]  Without the ability to finance equipment upfront, service providers may have no choice but to stretch out their buildout timeline – making purchases on a rolling basis as funding comes in.  This does nothing to encourage (or allow) providers to speed up deployment efforts.

In addition, as GeoLinks and other explain, LOCs are expensive.  The costs associated with obtaining and maintaining an LOC often run service providers 3-5% of the total value of the LOC (if not more).  As CenturyLink illustrates, for example, these costs can be astronomical over the life of the LOC requirement.[16]  While the Commission has previously acknowledged that LOC’s carry costs, the assumption appears to be that service providers will simply bake those costs into their bids – in other words, that USF funds should be used for those costs.[17]  The flaw in this assumption, however, is that any USF funds used for bank fees, etc. are no longer available for actually deploying broadband.

As the Joint Commenters explain, “it is the Commission’s responsibility to ensure that limited universal service funding is being used in [an] efficient and cost-effective manner.[18]  Moreover, as Incompas notes, “as the Commission recognizes in the NPRM, letters of credit can be costly, and bidders must take that into account in their auction participation.  That is money that would be better invested in the network itself.”[19]  Similarly, in advocating for the use of a performance bond over an LOC (discussed more below), WISPA suggests that a less fee-intensive option “could re-direct tens of millions of dollars from letters of credit fees to deployment.”[20]  Being able to use all obtained USF funds for USF deployment purposes rather than for bank fees, etc. will mean the ability for service providers to utilize USF funding more rapidly upon receiving it (vs. holding on to it to ensure all bank-related fees are paid before utilizing it for equipment, deployment, adding additional personnel, etc.).

For these reasons, the Commission should consider alternatives to the LOC in order to reach its goal to encourage faster buildout of broadband networks in RDOF areas.  There are a number of alternatives proposed by commenters.  GeoLinks supports several of them.  As an initial matter, GeoLinks supports the proposal by Incompas that “the Commission should allow small providers to demonstrate capability through means other than letters of credit,” such as “participation in other build projects, such as E-Rate of another federal or state grant project.”[21]  GeoLinks supports the idea that participation in another project could serve as assurance to the Commission that RDOF funds will be utilized in an effective manner.  Specifically, GeoLinks suggests that the Commission refrain from requiring LOCs from CAF recipients that are meeting their performance milestones.

However, if the Commission believes some mechanism must be used for all RDOF recipients regardless of past performance, GeoLinks supports the use of a performance bond in lieu of an LOC.  As WISPA explains in its opening comments, “if rules are appropriately crafted, performance bonds can accomplish the same objectives as letters of credit, with the added benefit of giving RDOF recipients flexibility to rely on a less expensive or otherwise better financial instrument.”[22]  Specifically, WISPA cites The Surety & Fidelity Association of America and the National Association of Surety Bond Producers which explain that a performance bond “is the result of the surety’s review of the financial strengths and capabilities of the carrier in determining whether to provide the bond.”[23]  This group explains that a performance bond “serves as a ‘deep pocket’ in the event the carrier fails” while an LOC “simply does not provide the same financial guarantee to the government.”[24]  For these reasons, and those set forth in its opening comments, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt a performance bond requirement over an LOC requirement.

In addition to a performance bond requirement, GeoLinks would also support alternative options for RDOF recipients (that recipients could chose between depending on their specific financial needs/ realities).  One such option would be for a service provider to place a set amount into escrow, as suggested by Windstream.[25]  This would serve as an upfront payment similar to spectrum license auctions.  As Windstream explains, “the provider would be permitted to take the funds out of escrow as soon as it certifies that it has met its first deployment milestone” and “should the provider withdraw before funding is disbursed or if it should fail to meet its first milestone on year after the deadline…the provider [would] be referred to the Enforcement Bureau.”[26]  GeoLinks agrees that “this requirement would ensure that providers have ‘skin in the game’ before they place their bids, not after.”[27]  Another option would be the reduced LOC option that GeoLinks proposed in its opening comments.  Specifically, GeoLinks suggested that the Commission reduce the LOC amount required for each year based on whether certain performance metrics have been met by an RDOF recipient.  This concept is also supported by WISPA, which proposed that as an alternative to the performance bond requirement, the value of a letter of credit should “be reduced by the same percentage as the service milestone that the RDOC recipient has satisfied.”[28]

GeoLinks supports elimination of the LOC requirement for all RDOF recipients as proposed in the NPRM.  Specifically, GeoLinks urges the Commission to either eliminate the requirement for service providers that have previously been awarded CAF funding or, if some mechanism must be used, to adopt a performance bond requirement with the option to obtain a reduced LOC, depending on the preference of the service provider.  GeoLinks believes that these alternatives will help the Commission protect its financial interests while meeting its goals of encouraging rapid deployment of RDOF services and ensuring USF funds are used in the most efficient manner possible.

CONCLUSION

GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to deploy high speed broadband to the remaining unserved areas of the country.  While GeoLinks largely supports all of the Commission’s proposals regarding the RDOF, the Company urges the Commission to encourage faster buildout and avoid discouraging participation in the RDOF auction by ensuring RDOF remains technology neutral, refraining from imposing a subscribership threshold upon which funding is contingent, and considering alternatives to the LOC requirement.

 

Respectfully submitted,

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks                                                  

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

 

October 21, 2019

 

[1] Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC Docket No. 19-126, FCC 19-77 (rel. Aug. 2, 2019) (“NPRM”).
[2] Comments of National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) (“NRECA Comments”) at 8.
[3] Id.
[4] Comments of the North Dakota Joint Commenters, WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) at 2.
[5] Comments of Windstream Services, LLC, WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) (“Windstream Comments”) at 20.
[6] Comments of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) (“WISPA Comments”) at 21-22, citing 47 U.S.C. §254(d).
[7] Id. at 21 (emphasis added).
[8] Notably these commenters represent varying company sizes, interests, and technology types.
[9] Comments of CenturyLink, WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) (“CenturyLink Comments”) at 18.
[10] Comments of California Emerging Technology Fund, WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) at 14.
[11] Comments of WTA-Advocates for Rural Broadband, WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) at 21.
[12] WISPA Comments at 8.
[13] Comments of NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) at 8.
[14] See NPRM at 28 seeking comment on whether the Commission should require support participants to build out to 50% of the requisite number of locations in a state by the end of year three.
[15] Windstream Comments at 18.
[16] See CenturyLink Comments at 13.  The chart CenturyLink includes in its comments assumes a 2.5% LOC fee.  These numbers will be higher, relatively, for smaller companies who likely have secured LOCs at a higher rate.
[17] Connect America Fund, et al., Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WC Docket Nos. 10-90, 14-58 and 14-259, 31 FCC Rcd 5949 (2016) (“CAF Phase II Auction Order”) at para. 139 – “While we understand that the requirement will impose costs on participants, we expect that all entities will factor the cost of letters of credit into their bids.”
[18] Comments of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Pa. PUC), the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate and the Pennsylvania Office of Small Business Advocates (“Joint Commenters”), WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) at 5.
[19] Comments of Incompas, WC Docket Nos. 19-126 & 10-90 (filed Sept. 19, 2019) (“Incompas Comments”) at 13.
[20] WISPA Comments at 36.
[21] Incompas Comments at 13.
[22] WISPA Comments at 35.
[23] Id. at 36
[24] Id.
[25] Windstream Comments at 19.
[26] Id.
[27] Id. at 20.
[28] WISPA Comments at 40.

GeoLinks’ Comments to the FCC on Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund - GeoLinks.com

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

September 20, 2019

 

SUMMARY

California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) is one of the fastest growing Internet and phone providers in America and the #1 fast growing fixed wireless service provider in California.  While the Company had previously focused on business and enterprise customers, in 2016, GeoLinks turned its focus to expand its customer base to include unserved and underserved areas throughout California and beyond.  GeoLinks was recently named an auction winner in the Connect America Fund Phase II (“CAF”) Auction securing funding to connect more than 11,000 unserved locations making it the largest CAF winner in California and the fifth largest overall.

GeoLinks supports the creation of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (“RDOF”) and largely supports all of the Commission’s proposals regarding the RDOF.  In particular, the Company agrees that the Commission should make 25 Mbps/ 3 Mbps the minimum standard for high speed broadband service and should prioritize areas at risk for falling further behind the rest of the country.  GeoLinks also supports the Commission’s efforts to speed up broadband deployment and minimize administrative burdens on RDOF recipients.  

However, there are some proposals that pose serious issues and could result in diminished participation in the RDOF auction, resulting in many areas remaining unserved by high speed broadband services.  In particular, the Commission’s proposed Letter of Credit (“LOC”) requirement and proposed subscribership reporting requirement pose significant threats to the success of the RDOF program and should be rejected.  GeoLinks provides these comments to provide input into the proposed RDOF auction processes and requirements.   

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these Comments in response the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) issued August 2, 2019 in the aforementioned proceedings.

INTRODUCTION

GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to deploy high speed broadband to the remaining unserved areas of the country.  As a service provider focused on the unserved market, GeoLinks understands the challenges associated with deployment to these areas.  Moreover, as a CAF award winner, GeoLinks understands the intricacies of the reverse auction process and recognizes what works for small to medium sized service providers and what may not.  While GeoLinks supports the creation of the RDOF and largely supports all of the Commission’s proposals regarding the RDOF, there are some proposals that could result in diminished participation in the RDOF auction.  GeoLinks explains these issues below and provides these comments to provide input into the proposed RDOF auction processes and requirements.  

DISCUSSION

  • The Commission Should Make 25/3 Mbps Service the Minimum and Prioritize Areas That Lack Services Above 10/1 Mbps

In the NPRM, the Commission “proposes a 25/3 Mbps service availability threshold as the basis for establishing eligible areas.”  The NPRM also proposes a baseline performance threshold of 25/3 Mbps, eliminating the 10/1 Mbps Minimum performance tier that was in place for the CAF Auction.  GeoLinks supports both of these proposals.  While GeoLinks believes that broadband funding should promote “future proof” network construction, the Company also understands the realities of providing high speed broadband to far reaching areas that require brand new infrastructure in order to serve.  Therefore, it is reasonable that there be an attainable minimum. GeoLinks urges the Commission to make 25/3 Mbps the minimum threshold for broadband speed under the RDOF (for all auction-related purposes).  

While GeoLinks would like to see all areas without at least 25/3 Mbps service available for support immediately, the Company also understands that it may be prudent to prioritize areas with the slowest Internet speeds in order to ensure these areas don’t fall further behind the rest of the country.  In the NPRM, the Commission seeks comment on prioritizing areas that entirely lack 10/1 Mbps or better fixed service and asks how it should do so.  GeoLinks supports the idea of higher reserve prices and/or additional bidding credits for these areas.  In GeoLinks’ experience, sometimes even with a 100% subsidy for the costs of an area, the economics still do not make sense to build infrastructure that the company will incur additional costs to maintain, market, etc.  These areas likely suffer from the same realities. Therefore, higher reserve prices or credits may allow auction participants to craft bids in a way that make economic sense. In addition, GeoLinks would support a separate auction phase as a way to encourage rapid deployment in these areas.

GeoLinks does not believe that the Commission should prioritize areas solely on the basis that they entirely lack 4G LTE mobile wireless broadband service.  As the Commission itself has recognized, mobile and fixed broadband services are not full substitutes for each other in all cases.  For the purposes of RDOF, the Commission should focus on fixed broadband services which can be used to serve consumers, business, and anchor institutions.  While GeoLinks anticipates that there will be significant overlap between areas that lack 10/1 Mbps service and those that lack 4G LTE services, GeoLinks urges the Commission to base any prioritization on where fixed broadband is lacking.  

  • The Commission Can Encourage Faster Build Out by Offering Service Providers the Option to Front-Load RDOF Support

The NPRM asks whether the Commission should “require support recipients to build out more quickly earlier in their support terms by offering voice and broadband service to 50% of the requisite number of locations in a state by the end of the third year of funding authorization.”  GeoLinks supports the idea of faster deployment of highspeed broadband to unserved and underserved areas.  In fact, GeoLinks is hopeful to complete 100% of its CAF auction buildout milestones well before the applicable deadlines.  However, if the Commission does decide to ramp up the build out requirements as proposed, GeoLinks would urge the Commission to also offer RDOF recipients the option to ramp up RDOF funding distributions.  Under this scenario, if a service provider were expected to build out 50% within 3 years, then funding could be front-loaded during those three years to cover all construction and deployment costs associated with a 50% network build.  Then, after those three years, if funding was front-loaded and assuming the RDOF awardee meets its milestones, the Commission could ramp down payments over the remainder of the 10-year period.  

GeoLinks suggests that the Commission allow RDOF recipients who chose the front-loaded funding option to select how funding is distributed during the first three years.  The Commission could provide some standard options (e.g. 50% over the first three years and then the remaining 50% distributed over the last seven, etc.) for RDOF recipients to chose from (subject to reporting requirements).  Because offering this option would not change the overall RDOF budget, the Commission should be able to accommodate it without any risk to the USF fund. While the front-loading option may mean more payouts over the first few years of the program, this would be made up for over remaining years of reduced payments leaving the overall program budget the same.  

While GeoLinks believes that several RDOF recipients will take advantage of this front-loading option, GeoLinks notes that it must be an option (not a program rule) due to the current LOC requirement that the Commission proposes to require.  As GeoLinks explains in great detail below, the LOC requirement is very burdensome on service providers – especially small and mid-sized providers. They carry heavy fees, make it difficult for service providers to secure additional funding, if needed, and often require high collateral amounts.  If the Commission insists on requiring LOCs for RDOF, front-loading of funds will result in larger LOC amounts for the first years of the program. This structure may not work for some providers as they may be unable to obtain larger LOCs for the first few years of funding or the fees/ restrictions/ collateral requirements may outweigh the benefit of front-loading funding.  GeoLinks is hopeful that the Commission will adopt the option for RDOF recipients to obtain a performance bond for RDOF funding instead of an LOC. Regardless, a front-loading payment option should be at the RDOF recipient’s discretion.  

  • The Commission Should Harmonize RDOF Reporting Requirements with Those Required for CAF Auction Recipients

In the NPRM the Commission seeks comment on how it can align service milestones to minimize administrative burden.  GeoLinks asserts that all RDOF reporting deadlines should align with the applicable reporting deadlines imposed on CAF auction awardees.  This includes for service milestone reporting, location reporting deadlines, etc. GeoLinks believe that this will be the most administratively simple process.  Regarding deadlines for service providers that may be authorized to receive support on different dates, GeoLinks urges the Commission to still use the same reporting deadlines applicable to CAF for all awardees.  

  • The Commission Should Not Implement Subscribership Milestones as a Basis for RDOF Funding

GeoLinks generally supports the service milestones that the Commission proposes in the NPRM as they very closely track the requirements set forth for the CAF auction.  These service milestones have been thoroughly vetted via the comment process and the success of the CAF Auction and are good measures of awardee progress. However, the Commission proposes one new milestone, in particular, that will not serve to track a service provider’s progress in reaching its RDOF buildout requirements and, instead, may discourage providers from bidding on areas at all.  Specifically, the Commission’s proposed subscription requirement.  

In the NPRM, the Commission proposes “to also adopt subscribership milestones for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund support recipients” and suggests that the “proposal could set milestones at 70% (the subscribership level assumed by the CAM) of the yearly deployment benchmarks.”  The NPRM goes on the explain that “under this proposal, we would condition a portion of the recipient’s support on meeting the subscribership milestones.”  While GeoLinks is certainly not opposed to the requirement that an RDOF-funded project be designed to support a high level of subscribership, requiring service providers to ensure a high level of subscribership or risk losing funds for network that has already been built will only serve to discourage participation in the RDOF auction.  

From a statutory perspective, Universal Service Fund (“USF”) funds are only to be used for broadband deployment, not adoption.  Section 254 of the Communications Act of 1934 specifies that high-cost support can only be used “for the provision, maintenance, and upgrading of facilities and services for which the support is intended.”  This language only contemplates deployment of facilities, not adoption efforts.  Therefore, adoption requirements for RDOF would fall outside the scope of the FCC’s statutory authority with respect to Section 254.  

From a policy perspective, broadband “subscription” and “availability” should not be conflated.  While an RDOF-funded network should be able to support robust subscribership in eligible areas, there are more factors than just “where infrastructure is” that dictate whether a consumer chooses to subscribe to the services offered.  In many of the areas that RDOF will cover, consumers have lived with slow or no Internet connections for a long time. Consumers in these areas may not understand the benefits of highspeed broadband connections based on a lack of firsthand knowledge.  In these cases, many of these customers may opt to remain on their slower connections (if available) or may not see the benefit of connecting at all. This is a reality that the State of California has recognized in its ongoing implementation of the California Advanced Services Fund (“CASF”).  In 2017, the California Legislature made changes to the CASF program including the creation of the Broadband Adoption Grant Program to fund digital inclusion projects and broadband access projects that focus on broadband education, digital literacy, providing public broadband access, and community outreach.  The state legislature realized that availability alone is not enough to spur adoption and created additional grant funds to increase subscribership.  

Moreover, in addition to the possibility of a low consumer take rate, it is possible that RDOF recipients will face competition (including existing providers offering slow speeds or satellite providers that may not qualify for RDOF based on latency factors).  This can also affect subscriber numbers. If community members split subscriptions between the RDOF-funded provider and a competitive provider (or among more than one competitive provider), under the proposed subscribership requirement the RDOF-funded provider might be at risk for losing support for the area despite meeting all other requirements.  

GeoLinks believes that other aspects of the RDOF framework address the Commission’s concerns regarding subscribership.  First, networks must be robust enough to support a 70% subscription rate. Second, recipients, as ETCs, will be required to market services throughout their RDOF service territory.  Lastly, because there is a requirement to install within 10 days in order to claim an area as “served” there is certainty that a customer could subscribe if desired. For these reasons, GeoLinks strongly encourages the Commission to focus the efforts of RDOF to increasing and expanding broadband availability and not impose potentially impossible subscribership requirements.  

  • The Commission Should Eliminate the Standalone Voice Service Requirement

In the NPRM, the Commission proposes to require RDOF recipients to offer standalone voice service, as it did under CAF, and seeks comment on this proposal.  While GeoLinks is prepared to offer standalone voice service throughout its CAF award areas, the Company does not believe that this should be a requirement for RDOF funding.  Instead, GeoLinks urges the Commission to simply require that RDOF winners offer a voice service option, which can be available via a service bundle. If there is demand for a standalone voice option, RDOF winners will offer it.  However, if there is not, the Commission should not require an RDOF winner to incur the costs associated with ensuring a standalone voice service is available to all eligible locations within its RDOF service area.    

  • The Commission Should Adopt a Larger Minimum Geographic Area for the RDOF Auction

The NPRM seeks comment on “whether census block groups containing one or more eligible census blocks is an appropriate minimum geographic unit for bidding for the [RDOF]” or whether “a larger minimum geographic unit, like census tracts or counties” would be more manageable.  GeoLinks supports the idea of larger minimum geographic units, specifically census tracts.  GeoLinks believes that larger minimum geographic areas will promote RDOF bids that take into account more network synergies, which may result in lower bids and less draw from the USF.  Bidding by census block group, while successful under CAF, was more complex and made it more difficult for service providers to gauge costs over larger areas. For these reasons, GeoLinks supports a larger minimum geographic area for the RDOF auction.  

  • The Commission Should Not Impose a Letter of Credit Requirement Under RDOF

In the NPRM, the Commission proposes to require a letter of credit (“LOC”) from RDOF long-form applicants as it did in the CAF Auction and seeks comment on “whether the Commission should use alternative measures to protect disbursed funds.”  As a CAF award recipient, GeoLinks has firsthand knowledge of the LOC process, what banks require to obtain one, and the burden that LOCs carry for small to mid-sized service providers.  GeoLinks strongly opposes implementing an LOC process for RDOF and commends the Commission for being willing to consider alternatives.  

As an initial matter, LOCs are very expensive to obtain.  Even at a 3% fee (which GeoLinks believes is on the low end of what service providers are receiving), under CAF, because of the requirement that LOC amounts increase exponentially each year to align with fund disbursements, LOC fees paid to banks account for a sizeable chunk of total CAF funds; funds which could be used for additional broadband deployment.  While the Commission did address its understanding that LOC’s carry costs in the Phase II Auction Order, the assumption that service providers would simply bake those costs into their bids also assumes that USF funds should be used for those costs.  GeoLinks urges the Commission to consider alternative options that carry fewer costs to ensure that more USF funds, in this case RDOF funds, are used for broadband deployment rather than to pay bank fees.

Second, obtaining an LOC may hinder a provider from securing additional types of funding to procure equipment and other network essentials early in the buildout process.  In order to secure a large LOC, a provider may either be required to use a large percentage of their initial CAF funds as collateral against the LOC or may be required to agree to far reaching UCC liens that affect the provider’s ability to borrow additional funds.  In either event, such requirements make it difficult for service providers to engage in rapid deployment of new network infrastructure, even if the costs of an LOC are built into the CAF bid. The result is slower deployment as providers are forced to prioritize bank costs over buildout costs.

   Third, because of the way LOC requirements are currently written, LOC holders under CAF are being charged like a drawn line of credit, subject to EBITDA-to-debt ratios.  This means that as the LOC requirement grows, there is a risk that the LOC amount will outgrow a service provider’s lending ability with the financial institution issuing the LOC.  Under this scenario, even if a service provider is on track to complete its buildout requirements, it could find itself unable to maintain the line of credit needed for the LOC resulting in default.  This is especially true for small and mid-sized service providers.  

Fourth, as the LOC amount grows year over year, even if the service provider is able to secure the necessary LOC, some banks may not be able to take on the risk associated with funding the LOC.  For example, by years 3 and 4 an LOC requirement could reach tens of millions of dollars for some recipients. Under these circumstances, a service provider may need to secure multiple LOCs in order to cover the entire amount required by the Commission.  However, as mentioned above, if the provider does not have the requisite cash reserves, each bank may require a first position UCC lien. This may make it impossible for the carrier to secure more than one LOC. While discounts on the LOC amount are possible depending on buildout rate, as noted above, if initial CAF funds are being diverted to banks for LOC security and UCC liens are being imposed, obtaining additional funding in order to build network may not be possible.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the LOC requirement disproportionately affects small and mid-sized service providers.  While one of the Commission’s stated goals for creating the RDOF reverse auction process is to encourage “intermodal competition,” the LOC process does not put providers on equal footing.  For example, a small, regional provider that has been offering service to a rural community may be the best solution to get high-speed service, tailored to the unique needs of those consumers, to any adjacent RDOF areas.  However, because this small provider may have fewer cash reserves than larger carriers or have a shorter history of creditworthiness, it will face an additional level of scrutiny in obtaining an LOC. This will inevitably makes securing an LOC very difficult, expensive and time consuming for the provider, which the provider must weigh against its interest in participating in the RDOF auction.  The unfortunate result may be that this provider opts not to participate in RDOF and that the adjacent unserved areas remain unserved.  

GeoLinks implores the Commission not to create policies that will divert USF funds away from their intended purpose, cause service providers to stall deployment, or preclude small and mid-sized providers from participating in the RDOF.  Instead, because the Company does realize the need for the Commission to protect itself, GeoLinks proposes the following alternatives to the LOC process. The Company believes these options strike the right balance between protecting the Commission’s interests and ensuring participation in the RDOF by small and mid-sized service providers. 

  • The Commission Should Implement a Performance Bond Option for RDOF Long-Form Applicants

In the NPRM, the Commission asks if there are viable, less costly alternatives to LOCs that still minimize risk to public.  One such alternative is a performance bond.  A performance bond requirement would provide the same protections for the Commission that an LOC would with far less cost to the USF fund and far less burden on RDOF recipients.  For example, like an LOC, performance bonds can carry stipulations on how the Commission would be able to receive compensation/ draw from the bond and would clearly define what a default would consist of.  However, unlike an LOC, there is less risk to the Commission of a service provider defaulting because it couldn’t obtain an LOC in later years of the program.  

As discussed above, the LOC requirement, as proposed and as required under CAF, is written to cover funding to be received in a coverage year AND funding that has been received to date.  While these amounts may start small, by year 3 or 4, these numbers can be astronomical and carry both heavy fees and heavy collateral or credit requirements. If a small or mid-sized service provider is unable to secure the collateral required to obtain an LOC or cannot overcome the other hurdles, a bank will refuse to renew the LOC and, under the Commission’s rules, will leave the RDOF recipient in default.  Meanwhile a performance bond carries far fewer collateral/ credit requirements while still offering the Commission the same amount of coverage. The reduction in risk of default alone should be enough to convince the Commission that a performance bond is the superior option, let alone the reduction in burden to RDOF recipients and to the USF.   

 By way of example, the California Public Utilities Commission has used performance bonds for its California Advanced Services Fund (“CASF”) broadband infrastructure grants since 2007 “to provide requisite assurance that [an] applicant has the financial resources to complete the broadband project.”  Specifically, the CPUC explained that the purpose of requiring a performance bond would be to “provide adequate financial safeguards, and reasonable certainty that the broadband project can be completed, or that funds can be retrieved from the applicant in event of nonperformance.”  As of April 2019, the CPUC has awarded more than $236 Million in grant funding for infrastructure builds, line-extensions, and in revolving loans.  To the best of GeoLinks’ knowledge, the CPUC has never acted to collect on any performance bond.  GeoLinks believes that the CASF fund can serve as a guide for the RDOF program and that a performance bond requirement will serve to adequately protect the Commission while reducing burden on service providers and on the RDOF fund.  

  • In the Alternative, the Commission Should Implement an Option for a Reduced Letter of Credit 

While GeoLinks has a strong preference for a performance bond option over an LOC requirement, the Company recognizes that there may be some providers that prefer the LOC process or need to obtain such an instrument due to some financial-related reason.  In this case, GeoLinks is not opposed to allowing service providers to obtain LOCs.   However, GeoLinks urges the Commission to reduce the LOC amount required from year to year.  Specifically, GeoLinks suggests that the Commission reduce the LOC amount required for each year based on whether certain performance metrics are met.  For example, if by the end of year 1 an RDOF recipient has reported building out to a certain percentage of eligible locations within its awarded area (perhaps 17%, which equates to approx. 1/6 of the buildout requirement to be reached within 6 years), the LOC amount would remain at a level equal to the funding to be disbursed in the applicable year (vs. that year plus the funding awarded in any previous years).  This would help keep the LOC cost reasonable and predictable.  Then the Commission could ramp down the requirement more each year as RDOF recipients reach higher completion percentages.  

To accomplish this reduced LOC option, the Commission must publish measurement criteria that can be monitored and measured by lending institutions that underwrite LOCs.  This will allow these institutions to track performance to more accurately assess risk. Even without additional reporting obligations to the Commission, these measurement criteria could be used for lending institutions’ internal reports required under an LOC arrangement to provide assurance that construction was being completed as mandated under RDOF.  

  • The Commission Should Require Less Technical Information from CAF Auction Winners in the RDOF Short Form Application Process

In the NPRM, the Commission asks if it should adopt the same two-step application process that the Commission adopted for the CAF Auction.  As a general matter, GeoLinks supports the current two-step process and believes it strikes the right balance to ensure the Commission can properly vet would-be auction participants prior to the auction and obtain all the needed information from auction winners before distributing funds without discouraging service providers from participating due to too much up-front work.  Therefore, GeoLinks urges the Commission to keep the two-step process.  

That said, the NPRM further asks whether the Commission should require “less information at the short-form stage from applicants that qualified to participate in the CAF Phase II auction.”  GeoLinks believes that applicants that the Commission deemed qualified to bid in the CAF auction have already made a strong showing of their technical and financial capabilities.  Therefore, unless there is a serious reason to re-vet these companies, it is reasonable to refrain from requiring them to submit brand new or repetitive info to prove their auction-worthiness.  However, GeoLinks would support a requirement that the pre-vetted applicant attest that nothing material has changed that would render previously submitted financial or technical information void.  Along this vein, GeoLinks believes that any CAF auction winner that defaulted on their winning bids should be subject to additional scrutiny under the RDOF short-form application phase to ensure that additional defaults do not occur.  But they should not be precluded from bidding.

CONCLUSION

GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to deploy high speed broadband to the remaining unserved areas of the country.  While GeoLinks largely supports all of the Commission’s proposals regarding the RDOF, the Company urges the Commission to create policies that will prioritize deployment to areas that currently do not have service over 10/1 Mbps, encourage faster buildout, and avoid discouraging participation in the RDOF auction.  In particular, GeoLinks urges the Commission to reject its proposed LOC and subscribership reporting requirements.     

 

Respectfully submitted,

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

 

September 20, 2019

 

GeoLinks Formally Approved by USAC to Begin CAF Build Out

The Universal Service Administrative Company has officially cleared GeoLinks to begin CAF II build outs in California and Nevada

CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) formally approved GeoLinks to start receiving funding for the Company’s Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) buildout in California and Nevada. Announced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in August of 2018 as the largest CAF II winner in the state of California, and 5th largest winner in the nation overall, with GeoLinks’ deployment plans and Letters of Credit officially approved, the innovative telecom will officially begin broadband deployment this summer.

Awarded a total of $87.8M in the auction, GeoLinks will provide more than 11,000 rural locations across California and Nevada with Internet at 100 megabits per second. The Company is also confident that this new infrastructure will simultaneously reduce the cost of bringing high speed broadband access to anchor institutions, such as Schools, Libraries, Hospitals, and Community Colleges, throughout both states.

“We are thrilled to have officially cleared both the FCC and USAC’s approval process for CAF II,” stated GeoLinks’ Co-Founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield. “While the announcement back in August was undoubtedly exciting, we are now officially in the position to begin deployment throughout both states.”

With the GeoLinks’ team fully prepared to break ground, the Company is now looking forward to participating in the FCC’s LIFT America Act, which will support another $40B worth of broadband infrastructure deployment in aims of closing the digital divide.

For media inquiries and interview requests, please contact Lexie Smith at [email protected]

FCC Comments – Microwave Flexible Use Service Licenses

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

 

In the Matter of

Preparation For Incentive Auction of Upper

Microwave Flexible Use Service Licenses In                            AU Docket No. 19-59

The 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz Bands

(Auction 103)

 

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

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) hereby submits these Comments in response to the Commission’s Public Notice released in the above-captioned proceedings.[1]

I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks is one of the fastest growing Internet and phone providers in America and the fastest growing telecom in California.  As such, and in order to be truly competitive within its service territory, the Company has a vested interest in promoting policies that allow fixed wireless broadband service providers to access spectrum resources suitable to providing high-speed broadband service.  Traditionally, fixed wireless ISPs have operated in the unlicensed bands (i.e. 2.4 and 5 GHz).  While several fixed wireless providers, including GeoLinks, have been successful in utilizing the unlicensed bands, their application is limited.  The availability of PAL licenses in the 37, 39, and 47 GHz bands, in addition to others the Commission is currently crafting rules for, could provide fixed wireless providers opportunities to provide fiber-like high bandwidth services and robust backhaul for 5G services in areas and in ways it was not previously possible.

GeoLinks applauds the Commission’s efforts to make more spectrum resources available for wireless uses and for seeking comment on ways to structure the upcoming Auction 103 to try to ensure participation from smaller companies.  While the Company believes that these efforts are a step in the right direction, it is concerned that Auction 103, if not structured the right way, will result in all available spectrum resources being consumed by large companies with seemingly endless capital.  As such, GeoLinks offers the following suggestions to help the Commission put would-be auction participants of all sizes on more equal footing in order to encourage additional licensees and innovative use of the 37, 39, and 47 GHz bands.

I. DISCUSSION

A. The Commission Should Make “White Space” Available for Auction

In the Public Notice, the Commission explains that it does not propose to make the “white space” that results in the 39 GHz band if incumbents chose to receive modified licenses, retaining only “partial PEA holdings (i.e., covering less than the full geographic are of a PEA).[2]  GeoLinks does not believe that leaving these “white spaces” unused promotes sound spectrum policy, especially when these white spaces can be used to further the deployment of advanced spectrum-based services.

In the Public Notice the FCC makes several proposals that would enable small businesses (e.g. small service providers) to participate in Auction 103.  However, as small providers have advocated in numerous proceedings, PEA-sized license areas can be too large.  For example, in the 3.5 GHz proceeding, GeoLinks previously advocated for smaller license areas because PEAs can so vastly differ in size as well as in urban vs. rural make up.[3]  The example GeoLinks provided, specifically, was PEA 2 in Southern California, which encompasses eight counties[4] and includes both large populous areas and large swaths of rural areas that are currently deemed “unserved” by high-speed broadband services.  If smaller “white space” license areas were made available within this PEA, for example, it might allow smaller carriers to provide more pinpointed services to specific communities without having to try and compete with the large providers for an entire PEA.

Attachment A hereto is a screenshot of PEA 2 taken from the California Interactive Broadband Map.[5]  The shaded areas represent areas that are considered unserved (no broadband access).[6]  While most of these areas fall within Connect America Fund Phase II grant areas, this map illustrates that large PEAs can contain both metropolitan areas as well as unserved areas. If “white spaces” in the 39 GHz band exist in PEAs that could be used to help provide much needed services to unserved rural areas, it stands to reason that the Commission should make those areas available to companies that wish to use them.  Conversely, if a remaining “white space” were to fall within a more populated area, allowing smaller companies the chance to utilize that spectrum would only serve to promote competition against companies who may opt for PEA-sized licenses.

GeoLinks fails to see the logic in creating auction procedures to encourage small companies to participate but refrain from creating possible license areas that these small companies could utilize – especially when they are available.  Moreover, not making these smaller license areas available will lead to these areas remaining unused, which will most likely disproportionately affect rural areas.  As such, GeoLinks strongly urges the Commission to reconsider its position to exclude “white space” areas from Auction 103.

B. The Commission Should Eliminate the Proposed Bidding Credit Caps

GeoLinks has previously expressed that incentive auctions tend to only benefit large companies with large amounts of capital to spend.  For this reason, GeoLinks commends the Commission on its decision to implement bidding credits for small businesses and primarily rural service providers.  However, while the bidding credits set forth in the Public Notice will help level the playing field for all bidders in the Auction 103, the Company believes that if the Commission truly wants to “promote small business and rural service provider participation in auctions and in the provision of spectrum-based services,” it must allow the playing field to remain level throughout the entire auction process.  Specifically, GeoLinks urges the Commission to eliminate the bidding credit caps it proposes in the Public Notice.[7]

GeoLinks recognizes that most companies eligible for the bidding credits do not have access to the kind of capital needed to even come close to reaching the bidding credit caps set forth in the Public Notice.  However, this does not mean it’s impossible. To truly create an auction process that promotes the deployment of advanced spectrum-based services, the Commission must account for the financial differences between larger companies and smaller, competitive companies or those focused on serving rural areas.  For example, if a small competitive broadband provider or rural service provider were to successfully raise enough capitol prior to the auction, it is possible that that company could compete head-to-head with a larger provider for the same block of spectrum within a specific license area.  In this circumstance, the smaller/ rural service provider should not be hamstrung by a limit on bidding credits, which could mean the difference between obtaining needed spectrum or not.  To promote innovation, these smaller companies must be given an opportunity to obtain spectrum licenses. Therefore, GeoLinks urges the Commission to refrain from imposing bidding caps on could-be auction winners and make the Auction 103 bidding credits applicable to all bids made by an eligible company, no matter how large.

II. CONCLUSION

GeoLinks applauds the Commission’s efforts to make more spectrum resources available for wireless uses and to encourage small businesses to participate in Auction 103.  However, in order to truly promote expanded participation in the Auction, GeoLinks recommends that the Commission reconsider making “white spaces” in the 39 GHz band available for auction and remove the bidding credit caps that will only serve to hamstring smaller providers from bidding against large providers.

/

/

/

/

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

 

May 15, 2019

 

Attachment A

FCC Comments - Microwave Flexible Use Service Licenses

[1] Incentive Auction of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service Licenses in the Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz Bands for Next-Generation Wireless Services; Comment Sought on Competitive Bidding Procedures for Auction 103, Public Notice, AU Docket No. 19-59, FCC 19-35 (rel. April 15, 2019) (“Public Notice”).
[2] Public Notice at para. 5.
[3] See Reply Comments of California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks, GN Docket No. 17-258 (filed January 29, 2018).
[4] PEA 2 encompasses Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties.
[5] See http://www.broadbandmap.ca.gov/ (screenshot taken May 10, 2019).
[6] Based on California’s definition – areas that are not served by speeds of at least 6 Mbps down/ 1 Mbps up.
[7] See Public Notice at paras. 11-17.

GeoLinks’ CEO Skyler Ditchfield Appointed to the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee

The Federal Communications Commission announces Skyler Ditchfield as a member of the newly re-chartered Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee

CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On May 16, 2019, Chairman Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced his appointment of Skyler Ditchfield, Co-Founder and CEO of GeoLinks, to serve as an official member of the newly re-chartered Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC). Of the 39 listed appointees, Skyler Ditchfield serves as the only Southern California representative.

According to the FCC’s official release, “In its second term, the BDAC will continue its work to craft recommendations for the Commission on ways to accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet access, or ‘broadband,’ by reducing and/or removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment and strengthening existing broadband networks in communities across the country.” The release continues by outlining the BDAC as an opportunity for interested stakeholders to exchange ideas and develop recommendations to the Commission on broadband deployment, to enhance the Commission’s ability to deploy broadband to all Americans.

Previously appointed to the Streamlining Federal Siting Working Group in 2017, and the Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group in 2018 (both BDAC sub groups), Ditchfield’s elevated appointment will enable him to provide strategic recommendations and influence action to close the digital divide on a national scale.

“I have been continually impressed by Chairman Pai, his administration, and all the work that they have done thus far,” stated Ditchfield. “They’ve truly worked hard to level the playing field for all sized ISPs. They’ve put forward significant new dollars towards broadband investment and are staying true to their promise of closing the digital divide. With GeoLinks’ founding mission being to close the digital divide, we have a multitude of case studies that have proven capable of closing the gap in California. Being that all of these projects demonstrate proven and transferrable methods, I am very excited to get to work with both the BDAC and my two designated working groups to cultivate the most realistic and feasible path forward nationally.”

The renewed BDAC will hold its first meeting on Thursday, June 13, 2019, in the Commission Meeting Room at FCC Headquarters, located in Washington, DC. The meeting is open to the public. The FCC will accommodate as many attendees as possible; however, admittance will be limited to seating availability. The Commission will also provide audio and/or video coverage of the meeting over the Internet from the FCC’s web page at www.fcc.gov/live.

The FCC’s official Public Notice can be accessed online via the following link: https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-announces-re-chartered-bdac-membership-and-first-meeting

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact Lexie Smith, VP of Business Development, at [email protected].

About GeoLinks

Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is a leading telecommunications company and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. Ranked first in category on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in both 2017 and 2018, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WANCloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.

GeoLinks’ accelerated success is largely due to its flagship product, ClearFiber™, which offers dedicated business-class Internet with unlimited bandwidth, true network redundancy, and guaranteed speeds reaching up to 10 Gbps. Named “Most Disruptive Technology” in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards, GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network is backed by a carrier-grade Service Level Agreement boasting 99.999% uptime and 24/7 in-house customer support. With an average installation period of 4 to 7 days, GeoLinks is proud to offer the most resilient and scalable fixed wireless network on the market.

Contacts

Media Inquiries:
GeoLinks
Lexie Smith, VP of Business Development
[email protected]

Expanding Flexible Use in Mid-Band Spectrum Between 3.7 and 24 GHz

Expanding Flexible Use in Mid-Band Spectrum Between 3.7 and 24 GHz - GeoLinks

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

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) hereby submits these Reply Comments in response to comments filed on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) released in the above-captioned proceedings.[1]

 

  1. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks is one of the fastest growing Internet and phone providers in America and the fastest growing telecom in California.  In an effort to be a truly competitive service provider throughout its service territory, the Company has a vested interest in ensuring that the FCC’s policies allow fixed wireless broadband service providers access vital spectrum resources.  GeoLinks applauds the Commission’s efforts to make more spectrum resources available for wireless uses.  It is undeniable that additional spectrum is necessary to meet “America’s appetite for wireless broadband connections.”[2]  However, GeoLinks urges the Commission not to assume that more unlicensed spectrum is sufficient in and of itself to meet the ever-growing demand for these connections.  Moreover, GeoLinks urges the Commission not to limit how fixed wireless service providers may use these new unlicensed resources, and to create rules that allow for Point-to-Multipoint (“P2MP”) use within the 6 GHz band.

  1. DISCUSSION 

  1. Unlicensed Spectrum is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

Traditionally, fixed wireless ISPs have operated in the unlicensed bands (i.e. 2.4 and 5 GHz).  The lack of access to licensed spectrum has forced fixed wireless providers to get very creative about how they provision highspeed and high capacity broadband services (including multi-gigabit speeds).  While several fixed wireless providers, including GeoLinks, have been very successful in utilizing the unlicensed bands, the application of these bands is limited.  As several commenters note, increased use of the unlicensed bands has created congestion.[3]  As Broadcom points out, “demand for unlicensed services, especially Wi-Fi, continues to grow, and the existing unlicensed spectrum in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands has become congested.”[4]  In addition, as WISPA’s comments show, the issue of congestion in the unlicensed bands has also been recognized by all current FCC Commissioners.[5]

While GeoLinks sees merit in Broadcom’s assertion that making the 6 GHz band available for unlicensed use “will be a critical step in addressing the looming unlicensed spectrum crunch,”[6] ultimately, GeoLinks believes that relying solely on more unlicensed spectrum availability (without additional opportunities for licensed spectrum) is, at best, a short-term solution.  As Commissioner Rosenworcel notes in her NPRM statement, “by the end of the decade, we will see as many as 50 billion new devices connecting to our networks through the internet of things.”[7]  GeoLinks cautions that as innovation and new devices seek room in the unlicensed bands, the wireless broadband providers that offer competitive connectivity to these new devices will continue to get squeezed.  Inevitably with so many wireless devices and wireless service providers clamoring for the same spectrum, the result will be the same – congestion in the bands and limited opportunities for competition and innovation.

As GeoLinks has expressed before, the availability of unlicensed bands is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the ever-growing demand for spectrum.  In order to craft a more complete, long-term solution, GeoLinks urges the FCC to expand the availability of unlicensed bands in conjunction with efforts to create more opportunities for licensed spectrum for competitive broadband providers.  This dual approach will ensure less congestion in the unlicensed bands for those carriers supplying the connectivity that drive further innovation.

  1. The Commission Should Ensure the New Rules Regarding the Use of the 6 GHz Band Allow for P2MP Use

With respect to new rules to govern unlicensed use of the 6 GHz band, GeoLinks agrees with various commenters that urge the Commission to create new rules that allow for and promote P2MP operations.  For example, the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (“DSA”) and Starry urge the Commission to allow higher gain antennas and P2MP operations.[8]  Similarly, WISPA makes a number of suggestions that would allow for P2MP operations such as refraining from limiting the types of services that can be offered in the U-NII-5 and U-NII-7 bands.[9]

As GeoLinks has previously explained, P2MP 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.  As Starry notes, “point-to-multipoint deployments are essential to fixed wireless providers.”[10]  Moreover, DCA explains that these technologies (as well as point-to-point) “will help improve connectivity and competition in all markets, including but not limited to underserved areas and rural communities.”[11]  For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to develop rules that allow for P2MP use in the 6 GHz Band.

  1. CONCLUSION

GeoLinks applauds the Commission’s efforts to make more spectrum resources available for wireless uses.  However, as the Commission strives to create policies and rules for unlicensed spectrum use in the 6 GHz Band, GeoLinks urges the Commission not to assume that more unlicensed spectrum is sufficient in and of itself to meet the ever-growing demand for these connections and to promote competition by creating rules that allow for P2MP use.

 

Respectfully submitted,

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

 

March 18, 2019

[1] Unlicensed Use of the 6 GHz Band; Expanding Flexible Use in Mid-Band Spectrum Between 3.7 and 24 GHz, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, ET Docket No. 18-295 and GN Docket No. 17-183, FCC 18-147 (rel. Oct. 24, 2018) (“NPRM”).  The NPRM was published in the Federal Register on December 17, 2018.  See 83 Fed. Reg. 64506 (Dec. 17, 2018).
[2] NPRM at para. 4.
[3] See Comments of Broadcom Inc., ET Docket No. 18-295 (filed February 15, 2019) (“Broadcom Comments”) at 1, Comments of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, ET Docket No. 18-295 (filed February 15, 2019) (“WISPA Comments”) at 5, Comments of Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, ET Docket No. 18-295 (filed February 15, 2019) (“DSA Comments”) at 1.
[4] Broadcom Comments at 1.
[5] See WISPA Comments at 6-7 citing NPRM statements of Chairman Pai and Commissioners Carr, O’Rielly, and Rosenworcel.
[6] Broadcom Comments at 1
[7] NPRM statement of Commissioner Rosenworcel at 1.
[8] DSA Comments at 3, Comments of Starry, Inc., ET Docket No. 18-295 (filed February 15, 2019) (“Starry Comments”) at 2.
[9] See WISPA Comments at 10.
[10] Id.
[11] DSA Comments at 15.

The future has arrived; it’s Smart, and we’re not ready for it. Here’s why.

Smart City Technology- Lexie Smith - GeoLinks

Read the original article on Medium.com

From Washington D.C., to the coast of California, “Smart City” is, and was, perhaps 2018’s most prominent buzzword, aside from “5G”, circulating nearly all tech, economic, and broadband related conferences and forums. While the exact definition of what really is a “Smart City” varies by person and party, the concept itself is based on the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Internet of things or (IoT), to optimize city-wide operations, services, and ultimately connect to citizens.

While some of the general public still think of this concept as far off, the reality is that “Smart Cities” have already began materializing across the country. Thus, this glorified digital future is here, and guess what America, we’re not ready.

Why Not?

Well, it’s simple really. Cities and its citizens can have all the ICT or IoT devices they want, but in order to make a city smart, these systems and gadgets have to physically work. That’s where connectivity comes into play. To fuel a Smart City, you need to have broadband Internet access with enough bandwidth to support electronic data collection and transfers. According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, upwards of 24 million Americans still lack access to high speed broadband. Furthermore, the report states that approximately 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans living on Tribal lands still lack mobile LTE broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps. Finally, only 88% of American schools were reported to meet the FCC’s short-term connectivity goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 users, and only 22% of school districts met its long-term connectivity goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 users.

On December 4th, the New York Times released an article titled, “Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says” that refuted the FCC’s published report. Based on a study conducted by Microsoft, the article summarizes that researchers concluded “162.8 million people do not use the internet at broadband speeds… In Ferry County, for example, Microsoft estimates that only 2 percent of people use broadband service, versus the 100 percent the federal government says have access to the service.”

So, regardless of which multi-million statistic we conclude is more legitimate, while many metro areas may have the bandwidth needed to at least partially move forward into the next digital revolution, there are still millions of Americans who would, as it stands, be left behind. This reality, coined the digital divide, is the ultimate Smart City roadblock.

Why being hyper fiber-minded is our fatal flaw:

States and communities across the country advocate that pervasive fiber network expansion is the solution to closing the divide. And yes, fiber networks can be great. The reality is, however, that building out fiber infrastructure to every location in America is time-consuming, tedious, and prohibitively expensive. Therefore, deploying fiber does not make economic sense in many rural and urban areas of the country. The Google Fiber project serves as a prime example of this.

To summarize, Google officially launched its Google Fiber project in 2010 with more than 1,100 cities applying to be the “First Fiber City.” By 2011, Google announced it selected Kansas City, Kansas as its target pilot. Fast-forward to 2014, and Google missed its projected city-wide connection deadline in Kansas claiming delays. By 2016, Google publicly commented that all-fiber build outs are proving infeasible due to costs and varying restrictive topologies, consequently filing with the FCC to begin testing wireless broadband internet in 24 cities. Within a few months, they officially acquired a wireless broadband provider and formally announced fixed wireless as part of their Google Fiber network moving forward.

All in all, this case study demonstrates first-hand that to actually close the U.S. digital divide our country must adapt a technology-agnostic mind-set and implement a hybrid-network approach that utilizes whatever technology or technologies makes the most sense for a particular region. Technologies like Fixed Wireless, TV Whitespace, 4G, and Fixed 5G, all have their place, alongside Fiber, in closing the divide. Unfortunately, until those in positions of influence are able to open their minds to these alternative methods, America will remain unconnected.

Who are people in positions of influence?

Luckily, our current FCC administration seems at least semi-understanding that fiber isn’t a “one-size fits all solution”; demonstrated in the recent distribution of funding to WISPs in the CAF II Auction. However, many state and local governments remain less progressive. At a recent California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) meeting in Sacramento, for example, a large majority of key broadband stakeholders and municipalities advocated that the California Department of Transportation’s (CALTRANS) future infrastructure plans should be wholly fiber-based to support the future of Smart Cities and Autonomous Cars. Whether it be from a lack of education, poor past experiences, or simply riding the buzzword bandwagon, until government organizations can push past common misconceptions that fiber is the only answer, community businesses and residents will be left in the divide.

So, what’s the “Smart” thing to do now?

For those cities in America already connected with reliable multi-gig Internet, go ahead, smart things up! Just keep in mind, to remain a Smart City, even fiber-rich metros will eventually need to extend current network infrastructure to new end points such as light poles, unconnected buildings, and future city expansions.

Ultimately, if we want to collectively prepare for this new revolution, we need to first focus on closing the digital divide. First comes broadband, then comes innovation, then comes the utopian idea of not only Smart Cities, but a smart country.

Smart City - Lexie Smith - GeoLinks

Related Suggested Articles:

Five Crucial Steps Needed To Close The U.S. Digital Divide

Grow Food, Grow Jobs: How Broadband Can Boost Farming in California’s Central Valley

Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says

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Rural service is key to bridging the digital divide

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.

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).