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GeoLinks Reply Comments on Establishing the Digital Opportunity Data Collection

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

GeoLinks Reply Comments Establishing the Digital Opportunity Data Collection

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 received on the Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued August 6, 2019 in the aforementioned proceedings.

INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to modernize its broadband data collection processes.  While the 2nd FNPRM proposes several improvements to how the Commission currently collects broadband data some proposals fail to take into account the fundamental differences that exist between technology types and the resources available to small and mid-sized service providers.  GeoLinks presents these reply comments to provide guidance to the Commission regarding data collection methods that are best suited for collecting fixed wireless broadband availability data.

DISCUSSION

  • The Commission Should Adopt the Safe Harbor Provisions Proposed by WISPA While Allowing Service Providers Flexibility When Submitting Availability Data.

GeoLinks supports the safe harbor approach proposed by the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (“WISPA”).   WISPA’s proposal recommends “a two-pronged process to be used by fixed wireless providers to create propagation maps that better illustrate deployment coverage for various fixed wireless spectrum bands.”  GeoLinks believes that WISPA’s proposed solution strikes the right balance between the Commission’s interest in securing granular broadband availability data and the realities of fixed wireless service.  Especially for smaller providers that may not have in-house broadband mapping expertise or designated mapping resources, this safe harbor process will allow for easily calculable service area boundaries.

As GeoLinks explained in its opening comments, a variety of factors including the location of transmission towers, specific equipment used, available spectrum bands, and line-of-sight from a tower come into play when measuring broadband availability.  This concept is also echoed by Alaska Communications, which explains that “coverage and broadband performance can vary widely” due to factors beyond a service provider’s control.  This includes changing weather, foliage growth, new construction, etc.  Moreover, as the Commission itself explains, determining the area that a broadband provider services “is highly idiosyncratic and determined by multiple factors.”  These factors make the creation of fixed wireless service polygons difficult.  In addition, as Connected Nation explains, “many providers, particularly small cable and fixed wireless companies, do not have the internal GIS expertise to software to create granular and accurate coverage polygons without assistance, regardless of how well the technical standards for polygon creation are defined.”

Alaska Communications asserts that “in order to provide a reliable and uniform standard for reporting fixed wireless coverage…the Commission should adopt the fixed wireless safe harbor proposal submitted by [WISPA].”  GeoLinks agrees.  In the case of small fixed wireless providers, it stands to reason that while creation of a polygon from scratch may be difficult, the location of a company’s equipment and what frequency that equipment is using to provide service is known.  Using WISPA’s safe harbors, fixed wireless service providers could utilize the equipment data they have readily available paired with reasonable estimations of coverage parameters based on the spectrum band utilized to create a polygon that is a reasonable representation of its service territory.  This would allow the Commission to obtain more granular fixed wireless availability data without creating a data submission process that disproportionately affects one technology type/ company size over others. Therefore, GeoLinks strongly urges the Commission to adopt WISPA’s safe harbor parameters as a reporting option for fixed wireless service providers.

In addition to the safe harbor provisions, which GeoLinks believes will be broadly used by fixed wireless service providers, the Company also recognizes the value of allowing for reporting flexibility.  As GeoLinks explained in its opening comments, there may be some instances where additional coverage area outside of the safe harbor parameters is realized. In order to ensure the most accurate data possible, GeoLinks urges the Commission to allow fixed wireless service providers the option to submit polygons that depict this expanded coverage.  In doing so, GeoLinks urges the Commission to allow flexibility in how providers develop these polygons. As Verizon explains, providers should “be permitted to rely on their own services, network designs, and internal data to produce accurate and reliable polygon maps of service coverage.” GeoLinks agrees and provides as an example the suggestion made by ACA that the Commission “permit providers to file polygons in different file formats, including KMZ format which can be readily produced from Google Earth at lower cost that other formats.”

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks asserts that the Commission should allow fixed wireless providers to submit polygons that follow the safe harbor standards proposed by WISPA or polygons depicting alternative coverage data utilizing flexible methods that track how the provider measures its service territories internally.

  • The Commission Should Establish Polygon Reporting by Speed Tier

In the 2nd FNPRM, the Commission asks what additional steps the Commission “can take to improve the quality of fixed broadband coverage polygons while minimizing the associated reporting burdens.”  GeoLinks agrees with commenters that propose that polygons be required for Commission-specified speed tiers.  As Alaska Communications explains, to help mitigate the burden associated with “developing separate polygons for every possible combination of download and upload speed, platform technology, and target customer,” the Commission should “establish bandwidth tiers (each covering a reasonable range of bandwidths) that may be represented by a single polygon.”  While GeoLinks may market specific speed tier offerings in some areas, the reality of fixed wireless technology is that almost any upload and download combination is possible with the appropriate engineering.  And GeoLinks’ customers subscribe to a wide variety of speed combinations despite the standard “tiers” offered.

Reporting by standardized speed tiers would allow service providers to easily report relevant data pertaining to its availability without running the risk of potentially having to create numerous polygons for the same area to reflect customer subscription variation.  For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to create standardized reporting bandwidth tiers.

  • The Commission Should Not Require Fixed Broadband Providers to Report Latency Levels

Several commenters agree with GeoLinks that the Commission should not impose latency testing on broadband service providers.  Unlike CAF recipients, average service providers are not prepared at this time to roll out latency testing and don’t have the benefit of high-cost funding to supplement the costs.  Therefore, requiring this now would impose significant burdens on broadband providers to develop and deploy testing measures unique to their networks.

Depending on the applicable protocol and engineering of a network, a service provider can provide high speed broadband to its customers and a high-quality user experience even with what may be considered higher latency.  Therefore, so long as a customer is obtaining the speeds they expect, latency is unimportant. Moreover, as NCTA explains, “in the past, the Commission has recognized that it is reasonable to presume that a provider that is meeting the applicable speed threshold is also meeting any applicable latency standards.”

The imposition of requiring latency reporting hardly seems worth it given the minor value (if any) that would result from it.  In fact, even some advocates of latency reporting admit there is no immediate need for this information.  As Verizon succinctly explains, obtaining latency data to go along with coverage polygons “will impose significant burdens on providers and will provide little useful information beyond what already is available.”

GeoLinks urges the Commission not to impose latency reporting on broadband service providers at this time.  Instead, GeoLinks suggests that the Commission review latency testing data submitted under CAF and monitor consumer complaints for any latency-related issues.  If latency becomes an issue that affects customers or if CAF providers chronically report higher latency than the maximum threshold allowed under CAF, then the Commission can revisit the concept of latency reporting for all broadband providers.

  • The Appropriate Timeframe for Filing Corrected Broadband Availability Data is with a Service Provider’s Next Reporting Opportunity

GeoLinks urges the Commission not to implement correction timeframes that impose additional burden on service providers.  As explained by numerous commenters, smaller providers generally don’t have in-house broadband mapping teams that can easily revise availability polygons on a rolling basis.  Instead, GeoLinks agrees with the Joint Commenters and Alaska Communications that service providers should be required to submit corrections in conjunction with their next scheduled semi-annual polygon update.

  • The Commission Should Not Impose Enforcement Measures for Unintentional Filing Errors

Some commenters urge the Commission to impose enforcement measures on service providers for any mistakes made during the reporting process, ever if inadvertent.  The City of New York, for example, asserts that the Commission should “penalize providers for reporting errors, whether intentional or not.”  Similarly Free Press “strongly urge[s] the Commission to adopt penalties for submitting inaccurate data, which should be particularly severe for ‘chronic filers of bad data.’”  However, GeoLinks cautions against imposing strict penalties on service providers who make unintentional errors.

As an initial matter, the collection procedures the Commission proposes are largely new.  There will inevitably be growing pains as service providers develop internal best practices for collecting, compiling, mapping, and submitting availability data.  Therefore, at a minimum, the Commission must allow reasonable time for service providers to shore up processes before considering enforcement actions – and should allow additional time (or offer additional resources) to smaller providers.  Secondly, and most importantly, the risk of enforcement action for any mistakes, even if unintentional, will only serve to encourage service providers to underreport service availability to avoid the potential of having something challenged.  This does nothing to move forward the Commission’s goals of creating an accurate snapshot of broadband availability.

Instead, the Commission should focus its efforts on improving data submissions and helping service providers perfect collection practices.  As NCTA notes “when errors are identified, the Commission should focus on correcting data so that its future maps are as accurate as possible, not punishing providers for good-faith mistakes.”

  • The Commission Should Create an Evidence-Based Challenge Process

GeoLinks asserts that any service availability disputes must include not only a certification but also proof that the service provider declined to provide service.  This concept was also proposed by NCTA, which asserts that the Commission should create an “evidence-based challenge process that places substantive evidentiary requirements on the party submitting the challenge.” Similarly, Verizon explains that certification by itself “does not go far enough to ensure that the Commission and providers are not bogged down…from meritless public challenges” and suggests that the Commission “consider other ways to ensure that its process to make its maps more informed does not become consumer by bad data or open the door to unnecessary or cumbersome procedures.”  For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to require that disputes not only include a certification but also include proof that the service provider declined to provide service.  This should be true for individual disputes and bulk disputes alike.

  • Crowdsourced Data Should be Used for Informational Purposes Only

In the 2nd FNPRM, the Commission seeks comment on how to best use crowdsourced data “to improve the quality of the service-availability dataset going forward.”  While crowdsourcing data can be used to assess customer experience trends, GeoLinks agrees with commenters that assert that not all crowdsourced data is reliable or relevant.  As Alexicon asserts that “the effectiveness of crowd sourcing is only as good as the crowd, so the Commission must adopt rules that ensure the process takes into account only legitimate concerns, provides for a simple process for addressing any undisputed discrepancies, and allows reporting carriers to make any necessary corrections without fear of immediate reprisal.”

In GeoLinks’ experience, factors outside of the service provider’s control can affect crowdsourced broadband speed data (for example).  Such factors include customer equipment, the reliability of the speed data test platform, etc. When present, these factors can yield results that are not reflective of a service provider’s network performance and, if relied on at face value by USAC, could paint an inaccurate picture of a service provider’s network availability footprint, skewing the Commission’s mapping efforts.  As WTA explains, “the overriding problem with crowdsourcing is that it seeks to test the entire Internet experience of the customer, which is impacted by multiple factors…not just the network of the providers.”  Moreover, as NCTA asserts, “online speed tests that do not control for factors outside the control of the provider should not be used for the purpose of assessing the validity of a provider’s reported deployment.”  In light of these potential limitations of crowdsourced data, GeoLinks encourages the Commission to heed the suggestion posed by WTA and use crowdsourced data for informational purposes only and consider crowdsourcing “a complement to, and [not] a substitute for, robust and meaningful evidentiary challenge processes.”

CONCLUSION

GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to modernize its broadband data collection processes.  In order to ensure that the process takes into account the fundamental differences that exist between technology types and resources available to small and mid-sized service providers, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt the recommendations set forth herein.

 

Respectfully submitted,

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks

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

 

October 7, 2019

 

GeoLinks Opening Comments on Establishing the Digital Opportunity Data Collection

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

Establishing the Digital Opportunity Data Collection - GeoLinks

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these Comments in response the Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued August 6, 2019 in the aforementioned proceedings.

INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks is one of the fastest growing Internet and phone providers in America and the #1 fastest growing fixed wireless service provider in California.  While the Company originally  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 is an advocate for improved broadband availability mapping and commends the Commission on its efforts to modernize its broadband data collection processes.  While the 2nd FNPRM proposes some improvements to how the Commission currently collects broadband data other proposals fail to take into account the fundamental differences that exist between technology types and resources available to small and mid-sized service providers.  GeoLinks presents these comments to provide guidance to the Commission regarding data collection methods that are best suited for collecting fixed wireless broadband availability data.

DISCUSSION

  • The Commission Should Adopt the Safe Harbor Provisions Proposed by WISPA

Fixed Wireless technology is unique.  Because it utilizes direct, line-of-sight connections (from specific point to specific point), some characteristics are similar to wireline technology. Similarly, because it is wireless and does not carry the connection requirements of wireline technology (i.e. physical wires), it also shares many characteristics to mobile wireless.  However, it is neither wireline nor mobile wireless and, therefore, requires broadband reporting processes specifically tailored to account for these differences.

As proposed, the data collection processes set forth in the 2nd FNPRM do not work for fixed wireless providers.  A variety of factors including the location of transmission towers, specific equipment used, available spectrum bands, and line-of-sight from a tower, are all factors that must be considered when engineering a fixed wireless network.  Logically, these factors also come into play when measuring broadband availability and therefore make the creation of a reporting polygon extremely challenging (at least in the form proposed by the 2nd FNPRM). Therefore, the Commission must look to adopt a solution that allows it to obtain the granular data it seeks while accounting for the technological differences of fixed wireless services.

GeoLinks supports the reporting approach previously advocated by the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (“WISPA”).  As WISPA explained, “in order to fulfill the overall objectives for accurate data for all areas of the country, especially rural areas, modernization must take into account the inherent differences in deployment and technology between wired broadband services and fixed wireless broadband services, as well as recognize and reduce the significant financial burdens on small providers.”  As such, WISPA’s proposal recommended “a two-pronged process to be used by fixed wireless providers to create propagation maps that better illustrate deployment coverage for various fixed wireless spectrum bands.”  GeoLinks believes that this proposed solution strikes the right balance between the Commission’s interest in securing granular broadband availability data and the realities of fixed wireless service and strongly urges the Commission to adopt WISPA’s safe harbor parameters.

One addition to WISPA’s proposal that GeoLinks would suggest is the option for fixed wireless service providers to provide expanded coverage information if service availability areas extend further than the proposed safe harbor parameters.  While GeoLinks believes that the safe harbor parameters proposed by WISPA are generally good measures of the broadband service parameters that will be realized, the Company also believes that in some instances, additional coverage area may be possible.  To ensure the most accurate reporting possible, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt the safe harbors in WISPA’s proposal with the option for service providers to provide a more expanded polygon if they so choose.  GeoLinks understands that any polygon areas that fall outside of the safe harbor areas would be subject to additional scrutiny by the Commission.

  • The Commission Should Require Broadband Service Providers to File Corrected Broadband Availability Data with Their Next Reporting Opportunity

In the 2nd FNPRM, the Commission proposes that USAC “ensure that providers refile updated and corrected data in a timely fashion,” and seeks comment on the “appropriate time period (if any) for fixed providers to respond to a complaint.”  GeoLinks agrees that any data provided by a broadband provider that is inaccurate should be corrected.  In the case of fixed wireless providers, any data that a provider chooses to provide outside of established safe harbors could be subject to correction, if inaccurate.  However, GeoLinks urges the Commission not to implement correction timeframes that impose additional burden on service providers.

The Commission should require that any corrected data be submitted with a service provider’s next filing opportunity, per the requirements of DODC.  Broadband reporting efforts are time and resource intensive. This is especially true for small and mid-sized providers that may not have in-house GIS specialists or data analysts dedicated to broadband mapping.  Requiring service providers to incur the cost of filing frequent corrections may result in service providers underreporting broadband availability to avoid filing corrections. Instead, lumping corrections in with the required reporting at a set interval (as proposed in the 2nd FNPRM) will not require service providers to allocate more resources than they already do for these ongoing filings.  Moreover, this will ensure the most accurate data possible is provided at each filing deadline. For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to allow service providers to correct any inaccurate data with their next filing.

The 2nd FNPRM also asks whether the Commission should require providers to resubmit all earlier datasets for the affected areas to conform to any corrections.  GeoLinks sees no value in resubmitting old data that may be outdated anyway.  First, broadband data for small and mid-sized carriers may change overtime due to customer attrition, changes in equipment used, network updates, etc.  Therefore, past data sets may be different than newly reported data sets and requiring correction could mean re-submitting incorrect data. In addition, as stated above, broadband data reporting is already a time and resource intensive effort for small and mid-sized service providers.  To require submission of new data and old data when an error is found could double or triple the work required for no actual benefit to the Commission’s mapping efforts. Instead, GeoLinks urges the Commission to just require the most correct data be submitted at each reporting deadline and use that data to populate its broadband availability tools.

  • The Commission Should Require Individuals to Provide Proof that a Service Provider Declined to Provide Service Within the Applicable 10-Business Day Period

In the 2nd FNPRM, the Commission proposes to require “that individuals disputing coverage certify that they have requested service from the provider and that the provider either refused, or failed, to provide service within the applicable 10-business day period.”  While GeoLinks believes that certification is a good start, false certifications would be difficult to determine prior to the Commission/ USAC and the subject service provider expending time and resources to investigate.  Therefore, the Company urges the Commission to go one step further and require that disputes not only include a certification but also include proof that the service provider declined to provide service. This could perhaps be in the form of an email from the service provider to the individual, a cancelled service order, or a transcript from a call to customer service.  This proof requirement will help ensure that the Commission/ USAC and service providers are only investigating legitimate disputes. Moreover, this would also help eliminate the risk of malicious challenges via automated tools or bots.

  • The Commission Should Not Require Fixed Broadband Providers to Report Latency Levels

In the 2nd FNPRM, the Commission seeks comment on “whether fixed broadband providers should include latency levels along with the other parameters in reporting their coverage polygons.”  The simple answer is “no” for a number of reasons.

As an initial matter, latency testing is not something commonly done by service providers because it is costly and doesn’t provide valuable data to the provider.  While latency testing is required under CAF, CAF recipients are only required to test a subset of customers, built the costs of such testing into their CAF auction bids, and are receiving high-cost support, in part, to undertake this testing.  To impose it on every service provider for all data provided would be extremely burdensome. Second, GeoLinks fails to see what value this data would be to the Commission to warrant such burdensome testing requirements. Depending on the applicable protocol and engineering of a network, a service provider can provide high speed broadband to its customers and a high-quality user experience even with what may be considered higher latency.  From this perspective so long as the customer is obtaining the speeds they expected, a specific latency measurement is unnecessary. Lastly, latency is not a measure of broadband “deployment,” which the Commission states is “critical to the Commission’s efforts to bridge the digital divide.” Therefore, and for the foregoing reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to not impose the burden of latency testing on providers.

CONCLUSION

GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to modernize its broadband data collection processes.  In order to ensure more granular data that takes into account the fundamental differences that exist between technology types and resources available to small and mid-sized service providers, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt the safe harbor proposal set forth by WISPA, only require service providers to file corrected data with its next submission opportunity (and only on a forward-looking basis), require proof of service denial in the dispute process, and refrain from requiring service provider to provide latency data that will not improve the Commission’s understanding of the current status of broadband deployment.

 

Respectfully submitted,

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks

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

 

September 23, 2019

 

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

 

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]

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

How Community Anchor Institutions Can Help Close the Digital Divide

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).

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Appoints GeoLinks’ CEO Skyler Ditchfield to the BDAC Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group

The panel is tasked with developing best practices to improve broadband outage response caused by local, state, and national disasters

CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On Thursday, November 1, 2018, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, Ajit Pai, announced GeoLinks’ CEO Skyler Ditchfield’s appointment to the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group.

As stated in the FCC’s formal news release, The Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group is tasked with recommending measures to improve the resiliency of broadband infrastructure before disasters occur, as well as actions that can be taken to more quickly restore broadband infrastructure following a disaster. The Chairman has also charged the working group with developing best practices for coordination among wireless providers, backhaul providers, and power companies during and after a disaster.

“Broadband communications have become essential to the delivery of life-saving information in a disaster,” Chairman Pai said. “It’s critical to public safety that our broadband networks are as resilient as possible to prevent outages in a disaster and also can be restored as quickly as possible when an outage occurs.”

Led by Chair Red Grasso, FirstNet State Point of Contact for the North Carolina Department of Information Technology, and Vice-Chair Jonathan Adelstein, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, Ditchfield is the only California-based representative, and the only fixed wireless broadband provider in the group.

“I am both honored and excited to be part of this working group,” said GeoLinks’ co-founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield. “Throughout the past few fire seasons in California, my team and I have gained extensive experience in recovering from and restoring connectivity during natural disasters. During the Thomas Fire, for example, we were able to re-establish services in less than 24 hours, whereas many terrestrial providers remained down for months. From solar and wind powered towers, to backup generators, we also have significant expertise in utilizing alternative power methods, technologies that become critical during catastrophic weather events. Locally, I am actively working on a large-scale, state-wide project that will utilize a multitude of technologies, including mobile relay stations, to create true network resilience, ultimately preserving connectivity during disasters. Every region and every disaster in our country has its own subset of challenges. I am confident our Working Group can not only improve the resiliency of broadband infrastructure before disasters occur nationally, but also ensure that connectivity is both maintained and restored as quickly as possible.”

While the first formal meeting of the group has not been publicly announced, a complete list of members is available at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-1121A1.docx.

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact Lexie Smith 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.

Use of Spectrum Bands Above 24 GHz For Mobile Radio Services

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC 20554

In the Matter of Use of Spectrum Bands Above 24 GHz For Mobile Radio Services

Establishing a More Flexible Framework to Facilitate Satellite Operations in the 27.5-28.35 GHz and 37.5-40 GHz Bands

Amendment of Parts 1, 22, 24, 27, 74, 80, 90, 95, and 101 To Establish Uniform License Renewal, Discontinuance of Operation, and Geographic Partitioning and Spectrum Disaggregation Rules and Policies for Certain Wireless Radio Services

Allocation and Designation of Spectrum for Fixed-Satellite Services in the 37.5-38.5 GHz, 40.5-41.5 GHz and 48.2-50.2 GHz Frequency Bands; Allocation of Spectrum to Upgrade Fixed and Mobile Allocations in the 40.5-42.5 GHz Frequency Band; Allocation of Spectrum in the 46.9-47.0 GHz Frequency Band for Wireless Services; and Allocation of Spectrum in the 37.0-38.0 GHz and 40.0-40.5 GHz for Government Operations

GN Docket No. 14-177

IB Docket No. 15-256

WT Docket No. 10-112

IB Docket No. 97-95

 

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

California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”) submits these reply comments in response to the Spectrum Frontiers Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Frontiers Second FNPRM”).1

I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks serves the largest coverage area of any single fixed wireless Internet service provider in California. The Company’s fixed wireless technology platform depends on access to spectrum resources sufficient to support enterprise-level broadband connections. As such, GeoLinks has advocated before this Commission on a number of spectrum matters over the last year. While the proceedings may differ, there are a few over-arching policy considerations that GeoLinks has repeatedly asserted are necessary to ensure robust competition within the broadband marketplace. These include ensuring spectrum resources are available on a competitive basis and ensuring policies do not favor one technology over others. GeoLinks urges the Commission to apply these same considerations to ensure that there is competitive access to the millimeter wave (“mmW”) bands and associated equipment ecosystem.

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Commission Should Retain Pre-Auction Review and Limitations on Spectrum Holdings

GeoLinks strongly agrees with Starry, Inc. (“Starry”) that the Commission must reaffirm competition policies that prevent over-aggregation of critical spectrum resources.2 In the Frontiers Second FNPRM, the Commission proposes to eliminate the pre-auction limit of 1250 Megahertz for the 28 GHz, 37 GHz and 39 GHz bands.3 Limiting spectrum ownership is necessary to carry out the Commission’s mandate of “promoting economic opportunity and competition and ensuring new and innovative technologies are readily accessible to the American people by avoiding excessive concentration of licenses by disseminating licenses among a wide variety of applicants.”4 As Starry explains, spectrum holdings limitations have played an important role in the FCC’s competition policy for decades.5

GeoLinks agrees with Starry that establishing individual bidders’ limits in advance of an auction promotes transparency and provides all bidders with information necessary to facilitate rational bidding. 6 To the contrary, analyzing spectrum holdings after an auction will require winning bidders that exceed the threshold to divest excess spectrum after-the-fact. From a policy perspective, this creates a system where auction winners who have knowingly purchased more spectrum than they are allowed to have, get the opportunity to pick and choose the best spectrum and discard the rest. This creates the need for the FCC to reevaluate what spectrum will be left over after negotiating individual relinquishments and potentially create the need for an additional spectrum auction to license whatever remains in the band. The result is a system in which large incumbents with large amounts of capital are able to secure any spectrum they want with no need to account for what they already have.

Chairman Pai has stated that the Commission “ha[s] no business picking winners and losers in the marketplace.”7 However, creating a policy that allows large carriers to disregard spectrum limits would do just that. As Untied States Cellular Corporation explains, history has shown that unless large carriers are subject to reasonable spectrum acquisition restraints both pre and post-auction, they are likely to pursue mmW spectrum acquisition relentlessly, which will shut out smaller carriers who might otherwise bid on available spectrum.8 For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission to retain pre-auction review and limitations on spectrum holdings.

B. The Commission Must Ensure a Robust Market for Equipment in the 24 GHz Band

In addition to ensuring that new and innovative technologies are capable of accessing spectrum resources, GeoLinks agrees with Starry that the Commission must also ensure “that all licensees in new spectrum bands have access to equipment ecosystems through effective operability requirements.”9 GeoLinks has previously advocated for spectrum policies that allow smaller service providers the ability to leverage market factors to drive down the cost of equipment. Unlike large incumbent carriers, smaller service providers lack the market power to ensure affordable equipment is available for all spectrum bands. As Starry explains, without operability requirements, these large carriers will be incentivized to inhibit competitive access to network equipment and devices. 10 This may result in underdevelopment of the band, a problem that the Commission has been dealing with in the 700 MHz band for years.11 For these reasons, GeoLinks urges the Commission establish operability requirements in the 24 GHz band.

C. The Commission Should Allow Sharing in the 37-37.6 GHz Band

In its opening comments, CTIA advocates for reconsideration of the Commission’s decision to allocate the 37-37.6 GHz Band on a coordinated basis.12 Specifically, CTIA urges the Commission to make this band available on a licensed basis claiming that an experimental sharing regime would be premature.13 However, GeoLinks believes that it is premature to suggest that the Commission close this band off to experimental use when mobile carriers themselves are not able to state explicitly how much spectrum them will need to roll out their 5G services.14 Instead, GeoLinks urges the Commission to finalize rules for shared access to the 37-37.6 GHz band to allow new technologies an opportunity to access these spectrum resources.

III. CONCLUSION

In conclusion, GeoLinks urges the Commission to ensure that there is competitive access to the mmW bands and associated equipment ecosystem by creating policies that ensure spectrum resources are available on a competitive basis without favoring one technology over others.

 

Respectfully submitted,

GEOLINKS, LLC

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

February 22, 2018

 

1. Use of Spectrum Bands Above 24 GHz, et al., Second Report and Order, Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Order on Reconsideration, and Memorandum Opinion and Order, 32 FCC Rcd 10988 (2017) (“Frontiers Second FNPRM”).
2 See Comments of Starry, Inc., GN Docket No. 14-177, et al. (filed Jan. 23, 2018) (“Starry Comments”), at 2.
3 Frontiers Second FNPRM at para. 105
4 See Section 309(j) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.
5 See Starry Comments at 2.
6 See Starry Comments at 3.
7 See Ajit Pai, Chairman, FCC Remarks on Restoring Internet Freedom (Nov. 28, 2017) (“We have no business picking winners and losers in the marketplace”).
8 See Comments of United States Cellular Corporation, GN Docket No. 14-177, et al. (filed Jan. 23, 2018), at 8.
9 Starry Comments at 5.
10 See Starry Comments at 5.
11 See Id.
12 Comments of CTIA, GN Docket No. 14-177, et al. (filed Jan. 23, 2018), at 10.
13 See Id.
14 See Comments of Verizon, GN Docket No. 14-177, et al. (filed Jan. 23, 2018), at 5, “It is too early to know how much bandwidth operators will need to provide customers with innovative 5G services.”