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SHLB Coalition Announces 5 New Board Members

Original Source SHLB.org

Washington, D.C. (December 5, 2018) – Today the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition announced five additions to its board of directors for 2019:

  • Cindy Aden, state librarian, State of Washington;
  • Erik Heinrich, senior manager SLED business development, Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS Company;
  • Tim Koxlien, CEO, Telequality Communications;
  • Ray Timothy, CEO and executive director, Utah Education & Telehealth Network; and
  • Melissa Slawson, general counsel and VP of government affairs and education, GeoLinks.

“These individuals and their organizations are dedicated to achieving digital equity through connecting community anchor institutions (CAIs),” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition, “Their passion and diverse areas of expertise will make SHLB’s advocacy for CAI broadband connectivity even stronger.”

The current SHLB board of directors appointed Aden, Heinrich, Koxlien, and Timothy, while SHLB’s membership elected Slawson to serve. The incoming members, who begin their three-year terms on the board on January 1, 2019, made the following statements:

“As the State Librarian for Washington State, I am eager to get more involved in the nuts and bolts of broadband and e-rate issues, as my state readies itself for significant broadband legislation that will include the State Library as one of the stakeholders. I am honored to follow the work of my esteemed colleague, the Montana State Librarian Jennie Stapp, and I look forward to working with the SHLB board.” – Cindy Aden, State Librarian, Washington State.

“As a research and education network, we have found SHLB to be a great resource for our organization as we strive to network for education and telehealth in Utah. I am excited to be on the board so that we can share our experiences and strengths with others throughout the country.” – Ray Timothy, Utah Education & Telehealth Network

“SHLB is the only voice representing the common broadband interests of community anchor institutions, local and state government entities and service providers. Under John Windhausen’s leadership, our members receive the benefit of a well respected, hard working and dedicated organization. I am grateful to be a part of the work that SHLB does in helping to solve broadband problems throughout the US.” – Tim Koxlien, Telequality Communications.

“I am honored to join SHLB in raising awareness around the challenges of Digital Equity and advocating for solutions to the disparity in online access among our Nation’s diverse populations of students, teachers and their communities. SHLB’s mission is closely aligned with this very issue and I look forward to fulfilling a role as a member of the SHLB board of directors while working closely with the SHLB member community to help close the digital divide.” – Erik Heinrich, Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS Company.

“I am excited and honored to have been chosen as the newest member of the SHLB Board of Directors. Universal broadband access has always been a personal passion of mine and I look forward to representing GeoLinks as I work with SHLB and my fellow Board members to bring more awareness to the issue and create policies that help bridge the digital divide.” – Melissa Slawson, GeoLinks.

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About SHLB:

The SHLB Coalition is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) advocacy organization that supports open, affordable, high-quality broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. The SHLB Coalition is based in Washington, DC and has a diverse membership of commercial and non-commercial organizations from across the United States. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Alicja Johnson
[email protected]
(202) 261-6599

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Comments to Consider Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund

BEFORE THE
CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider
Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund.
Rulemaking No. 12-10-012 (Filed October 25, 2012)

 

OPENING COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. (U-7326-C) DBA

GEOLINKS ON PROPOSED DECISION OF COMMISSIONER GUZMAN ACEVES

IMPLEMENTING THE CALIFORNIA ADVANCED SERVICES FUND

INFRASTRUCTURE ACCOUNT REVISED RULES

November 29, 2018 

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully submitted,

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

November 29, 2018

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

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

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

COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. DBA GEOLINKS

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

  1. INTRODUCTION

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

  1. DISCUSSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • CONCLUSION

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

 

Respectfully submitted,

GEOLINKS, LLC

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

 

November 27, 2018

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

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

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

 

  1. DISCUSSION
  2. Prospective Developments

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

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

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

 

  1. Reliability and Validity of Data

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

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

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

 

  1. Relevant Stakeholder’s Evidence

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

 

  • CONCLUSION

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

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

 

November 13, 2018

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

Spectrum as Infrastructure – Connecting Rural and Underserved Areas

Panel discussion at the 8th Annual SHLB Conference.

Panel Description: More than 15 million Americans in rural and tribal areas still lack access to 25/3 broadband, and a disproportionate number of rural schools and libraries lack high-capacity broadband connections. Wireless services may provide cost-effective solutions to address this rural broadband gap. Fixed wireless access can provide broadband at high capacity (100/10 Mbps or better), or over long distances to remote locations, at a fraction of the cost of trenching fiber. This panel will describe three pending FCC rulemakings that could open access to a large new supply of both unlicensed and lightly-licensed shared spectrum.

Featured Speakers in Highlights: Melissa Slawson (GeoLinks) Andrew Clegg (Google), Moderator: Michael Calabrese (New America OTI)

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California Internet, L.P. DBA GeoLinks Awarded $87.8M to Expand Rural Internet in California and Nevada

CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On Tuesday, August 28th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officially released the results of its Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF II) auction, allocating $1.488 Billion to close the United States’ Digital Divide. Innovative award winning telecom, GeoLinks, headquartered in Camarillo, California, received a total of $87.8M to expand rural internet in California and Nevada, making it the largest auction winner in the state of California, and 5th largest winner in the nation overall. Ousting big telcos such as Verizon, Frontier, and AT&T, this is the first time the largest winner of CAF in California has been an independent operator and not an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC).

“GeoLinks’ founding mission is to close the U.S. Digital Divide,” said GeoLinks Co-Founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield. “With this promise of capital from the FCC, GeoLinks will be able to further expand our network into rural areas of both California and Nevada, ultimately providing more than 11,000 rural locations with Internet at 100 megabits per second. We are excited that this new infrastructure will also reduce the cost of bringing high speed broadband access to anchor institutions such as Schools, Libraries, Hospitals, and Community Colleges. You can expect to see GeoLinks fully close the digital divide in California in these areas in the next 2-3 years with the help of our corporate partner the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC). From the beginning it was expected to see the incumbent providers take home big portions of the total fund. However, I am absolutely thrilled that our company, a mid-sized ISP with true rural beginnings, was able to secure the largest grant in CA and be in the top 5 nationally. Not only does this secure a bright future for the rural communities we will service, but it also allows our company to have a secure future and bring more jobs into our local economy.”

As stated by Chairman Ajit Pai in the FCC’s formal release, the successful conclusion of this first-of-its kind auction is great news for the residents of these rural communities, who will finally be able to share in the 21st-century digital opportunities that broadband provides. By tapping the mechanisms of the marketplace, the CAF II auction served as the most appropriate and cost-effective way to allocate funding for broadband in these unserved communities, bringing the highest-quality broadband services to the most consumers at the lowest cost to the ratepayer.

“As part of its efforts to promote ubiquitous broadband access for all Americans, the FCC created the CAF II auction to enable Internet service providers to build and maintain infrastructure in unserved areas throughout the US,” commented GeoLinks’ General Counsel and VP of Government Affairs and Education Melissa Slawson. “I am elated to see that a capable company of our size was granted substantial funding to further propel our mission connect rural California, Nevada, and beyond.”

More information is available at https://www.fcc.gov/auction/903. A map of winning bids is available at https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/maps/caf2-auction903-results/

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact Lexie Olson at [email protected].

GeoLinks

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

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.

Recognized as a thought-leader in closing the digital divide, GeoLinks proudly sits on an array of national boards, coalitions, and working groups including the Schools, Healthcare & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast (BCPC), and the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee’s (BDAC) Streamlining Federal Siting Working Group.

More about Connect America Fund Phase II Auction:

A total of 103 providers ultimately won support in the CAF II auction to expand broadband across 45 states. The funding, which will be distributed over the next 10 years, will connect 53% of all rural homes and businesses with broadband download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second. 19% will have gigabit service available. And 711,389 locations—all but 0.25%—will have at least 25 Mbps service available.

Contacts

GeoLinks
Lexie Olson, [email protected]

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Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund

 

August 8, 2018

BEFORE THE

CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund

 Rulemaking No. 12-10-012  (Filed October 25, 2012)

 

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

 

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

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

Headquartered in Camarillo, CA, GeoLinks is nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Hosted Voice solutions.  The Company’s proprietary ClearFiber™ product utilizes a combination of terrestrial fiber optic backhaul, carrier-grade full-duplex fixed wireless equipment, and FCC licensed spectrum to deliver ultra-reliable high-speed broadband Internet access via radio waves.[1]

GeoLinks is proud to service the largest coverage area of any single fixed wireless Internet service provider in the state the California.  As a competitive broadband provider, GeoLinks is constantly seeking opportunities to expand its ever-growing fixed wireless broadband network to reach areas that are unserved by incumbent broadband providers or lack access to fiber connections.  The Company hopes to leverage its expertise in connecting unserved areas of the state to apply for California Advanced Services Fund (“CASF”) funding in the coming year.

 

  1. DISCUSSION
    1. Eligibility and Challenge Process

Question 1.a.: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question 1.b.: 

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

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

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

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

  1. Prioritizing Projects and Areas to Support

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

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

Question 3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  1. Middle-Mile Infrastructure

Question 5:

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

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

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

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

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

//

  • CONCLUSION

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

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

/s/ Melissa Slawson

 

Melissa Slawson

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

California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks

251 Camarillo Ranch Rd

Camarillo, CA 93012

 

August 8, 2018

 

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

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

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

 

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

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

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

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

 

  1. DISCUSSION

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

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

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

 

  • CONCLUSION

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

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

 

August 6, 2018

[1] Amendment of Part 90 of the Commission’s Rules, Sixth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, WP Docket No. 07-100, FCC 18-33 (rel. March 23, 2018) (“FNPRM”).
[2] See Comments of the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) (“WISPA Comments”) at 2 and Comments of Federated Wireless, Inc., WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) (“Federated Wireless Comments”) at 3.
[3] While GeoLinks proposed that sharing within the band be conducted on a licensed or light-licensed approach, the Company is not opposed to implementation of a dynamic spectrum sharing approach.  That said, GeoLinks urges the Commission to continue to consider licensed or light-licensed approaches for other bands that are well-suited for fixed wireless broadband use.
[4] FNPRM at para 1.
[5] Comments of Region 21 700 MHz Planning Committee, WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) at 3.
[6] Comments of the Utilities Technology Council, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Gridwise Alliance, WP Docket No. 07-100 (filed July 6, 2018) at 3.
[7] WISPA Comments at 5.
[8] See Federated Wireless Comments at 6.
[9] See WISPA at Comments at 6 and Federated Wireless Comments at 17.
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In the Matter of Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz Band

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, DC  20554

 

In the Matter of Expanding Flexible Use of the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz Band | GN Docket No. 18-122 

 

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 Public Notice issued on May 1, 2018.[1]

 

  1. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

GeoLinks believes that the 3.7-4.2 GHz band ​is​ ​well-suited​ ​to​ ​support​ point-to-multipoint (“P2MP”) ​​broadband​ ​access.  As GeoLinks has previously stated, P2MP service options are ideal because they allow a wireless service provider to provide dedicated high-speed broadband connections to several end-users (i.e. several households throughout a community) from one location, requiring fewer towers and less equipment than point-to-point connections.  This is especially beneficial in rural and high-cost areas and can provide much-needed competition to incumbent providers in urban and suburban areas.  With the appropriate rules, the Commission can ensure P2MP use is feasible in the band, which will result in more affordable, high-speed broadband and increased broadband competition.

 

  1. DISCUSSION
  2. The Commission Should Open an NPRM to Assess the Viability of the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band

As stated in the Public Notice, the Commission must assess “the feasibility of allowing commercial wireless services” in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band and submit a report to Congress on its findings.[2]  While the Commission could draft a standalone report in compliance with this directive, GeoLinks believes that this presents an opportunity for the Commission to do a deeper dive into how best to utilize the band.  As stated in its opening comments, GeoLinks believes that 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.  Issuing an NPRM in this proceeding would allow the Commission to create a robust record regarding potential uses of the band and technical guidance regarding sharing mechanisms that it may be able to apply to other bands, as well. As such, GeoLinks agrees with T-Mobile that the Commission should open an NPRM in this proceeding and base any report provided to Congress based on the record created as a result.[3]

 

  1. The 3.7-4.2 GHz Band Should Not Be Used Exclusively for Mobile

There is a common theme echoed by the mobile wireless commenters that the 3.7-4.2 band should allocated “for mobile broadband use on a flexible basis”[4] and that the “adjacency to the 3.5 GHz band” justify the “allocating and repurposing” of a large swath of the band for 5G services.[5]  However, earmarking the band for mobile broadband services exclusively is not the best use of the band to promote immediate utilization and public interest.

Spectrum is, first and foremost, a public resource and should be allocated in ways that promotes immediate and robust use of it.  As GeoLinks noted in its opening comments, the Company agrees with the Broadband Access Coalition (“BAC”) that the band “is not now, and will not for several years, be suitable for mobile use given the existing deployment of FSS earth stations and FS P2P links.”[6]  In its opening comments, even T-Mobile acknowledges this fact stating that “T-Mobile recognizes that not all 500 MHz may be available immediately for exclusive terrestrial operations in all locations.”[7]  In part, this is because optimal mobile use of the band would require the FCC to repack existing users into another portion of the band or to another band all together.[8]  Or, in the alternative, would request that FSS stations be forced to utilize fiber connections to replace downlinks to earth station receivers or even relocate earth stations to more remote locations.[9]

As the Satellite Industry Association (“SIA”) explains, the satellite industry has already invested significant resources into the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.[10]  Forcing license holders to shift to a new portion of the band (potentially requiring new transmission equipment), to physically relocate infrastructure (requiring construction and potentially triggering environmental review), or to completely restructure technology platforms could require these companies to lose the benefit of their investments and potentially force them to incur significant costs.[11]

GeoLinks fails to see the public interest argument for requiring license holders to incur potentially significant costs or for additional administrative oversight to repack the band when the band could be utilized now, as is.  GeoLinks asserts that P2MP technology can be utilized in the band almost immediately without interfering with existing users and without requiring existing users to uproot their existing systems and infrastructure.

 

  1. Spectrum Sharing is Possible in the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band with the Appropriate Coordination Practices

Contrary to claims made by some commenters, sharing IS possible in the 3.7-4.2 GHz band.  While CTIA, for example, is correct that it is not possible for existing users of the band to share with mobile broadband providers, this does not apply to fixed broadband providers.[12]

As explained in its opening comments, GeoLinks (as well as other fixed wireless broadband providers) can coordinate its use of a frequency around any fixed point that may be necessary (i.e. an FSS earth station).  Unlike mobile wireless, fixed wireless technology uses directional antennas and fixed transmission points that travel in a designated path.  Between those connection points, fiber optic technology is used.  This is demonstrated in the figure below.

 

GeoLinks' Fixed Wireless

FIGURE 1: GeoLinks ClearFiber™ Distribution[13]

 

Compare this figure to that provided in NCTA’s comments, showing directional transmission connections between satellites and fixed, terrestrial points.[14]  So long as the transmission path between towers and receiving equipment is engineered to avoid overlap with another signal utilizing the same spectrum, interference can be avoided.[15]  With respect to the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, if the locations of FSS earth stations and their transmission paths are known, this can be accomplished.

To that end, if an FSS earth station is properly registered and identified within the band, it can be protected from interference – and should be.  However, as SIA notes, up to 90% of earth stations are unregistered.[16]  GeoLinks agrees with Google that “unregistered or incorrectly registered earth stations should not be entitled to interference protections.”[17]  This includes FSS stations that do not timely file their registrations with the FCC.  GeoLinks commends the Commission on its efforts to update its FSS earth station database and believes this is an important first step to better utilization of the band.

 

  1. The Commission Should Consider Strict Buildout and Usage Requirements for New Users of the 3.7-4.2 GHz Band

GeoLinks reiterates that any spectrum license should carry with it the requirement to serve the public interest – including for shared or light licensed spectrum.  Any additional use of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band should be subject to strict buildout and service requirements to help promote broadband deployment in rural areas.[18]  These requirements will alleviate the risk of spectrum warehousing and encourage rapid deployment of high-speed broadband by band users.

/

/

/

/

/

/

/

  • CONCLUSION

In conclusion, GeoLinks urges the Commission to open an NPRM in this proceeding to consider the feasibility of and create rules for commercial wireless services under a shared, light licensed regime with robust build out requirements.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

GEOLINKS, LLC

 

/s/ Skyler Ditchfield, Chief Executive Officer

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

 

June 15, 2018

[1] Office of Engineering and Technology, International, and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus Seek Comment for Report on the Feasibility of Allowing Commercial Wireless Services, Licensed or Unlicensed, to Use or Share Use of the Frequencies Between 3.7-4.2 GHz, Public Notice, GN Docket 18-122, DA 18-446 (re. May 1, 2018).
[2] Public Notice at 1-2.
[3] Comments of T-Mobile, GN Docket No. 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 4 (“T-Mobile Comments”).  In addition, opening an NPRM would satisfy NCTA’s concern that proponents of sharing operations within the band “have not filed robust technical analysis” in the proceeding.  Comments of NCTA – the Internet & Television Association, GN Docket No. 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 8 (“NCTA Comments”).
[4] T-Mobile Comments at 8.
[5] Comments of CTIA, GN Docket No. 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 5 (“CTIA Comments”).
[6] Broadband Access Coalition, Petition for Rulemaking to Amend and Modernize Parts 25 and 101 of the Commission’s Rules to Authorize and Facilitate the Deployment of Licensed Point-to-Multipoint Fixed Wireless Broadband Service in the 3700-4200 MHz Band, RM-11791 (filed June 21, 2017), at 6 (“Petition”).
[7] T-Mobile Comments at 10
[8] CTIA Comments at 3.
[9] See CTIA Comments at 6.
[10] See Comments of the Satellite Industry Association, GN Docket No 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 2-3 (SIA Comments).
[11] GeoLinks notes that one of the reasons that many rural Americans lack high-speed broadband connections is the high cost associated with fiber buildouts in remote areas.   These costs would also be high for any satellite provider forced to construct new fiber to replace downlinks to earth station receivers.
[12] See CTIA Comments at 2.
[13] ClearFiber™ is GeoLinks’ flagship fixed wireless product, offering dedicated, business-class internet with unlimited bandwidth, true network redundancy, guaranteed speeds, and backed by a carrier-grade Service Level Agreement boasting 99.999% uptime and 24/7 in-house customer support.
[14] See Figure 1: Cable Video Distribution, NCTA Comments at 3.
[15] With the correct design, in most areas, FCC stations can be avoided by the 30-75 kms that NCTA explains would be required to protect earth stations from harmful interference. See NCTA Comments at 7.
[16] SIA Comments at 3.
[17] Comments of Google LLC, GN Docket 18-122 (filed May 31, 2018), at 3
[18] Specifically, GeoLinks recommends build out to a minimum number of locations.  In the alternative, GeoLinks recommends that the Commission require any new band user to make a showing that they are actually serving customers over the band within a reasonable timeframe.
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Reply Comments on Phase II — Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling

BEFORE THE

CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider Modifications to the California Advanced Services Fund.  |   Rulemaking No. 12-10-012 (Filed October 25, 2012)

 

REPLY COMMENTS OF CALIFORNIA INTERNET, L.P. (U-7326-C) DBA GEOLINKS ON PHASE II OF THE FEBRUARY 14, 2018 AMENDED SCOPING MEMO AND ASSIGNED COMMISSIONER’S RULING

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

California Internet, L.P. (U-7326-C) dba GeoLinks (“GeoLinks” or the “Company”)[1] respectfully submits these reply comments on the Phase II Staff Proposal set forth in the February 14, 2018 Amended Scoping Memo and Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling (“Ruling”).

 

  1. DISCUSSION
    1. The Per Household Threshold for Ministerial Review Should be Technology Neutral

As noted in its Opening Comments, GeoLinks supports Staff’s proposal to create a ministerial review process for certain projects.  The Company believes that such a process will reserve Commission resources and encourage more participation in the CASF program.  However, commenters agree that the per household cost thresholds Staff proposes for this ministerial review process should be changed.  For example, the California Cable and Telecommunications Association (“CCTA”) asserts that these thresholds are not technology neutral, explaining that the thresholds give “fiber-to-the-home a 12-13 times cost advantage over other technologies.”[2]  The Joint Consumers urge the Commission to “ensure that applicants interested in the expedited process develop cost-effective project plans” after addressing that the $15,560 figure for fiber is “relatively high.”[3]  In addition, Frontier objects to the cost-per-household criteria explaining that “[u]se of prior CASF cost per household as a criteria for expedited treatment is not justified, prudent, or pursuant to any legislative direction.”[4]

In its opening comments, GeoLinks urged the Commission to set a flat cost per household threshold for its ministerial review process that would apply to all CASF applicants, regardless of technology type.  Some commenters proposed different ideas for these thresholds.  Joint Consumers suggest that the Commission develop a cost model equation for estimating fiber costs.  Though GeoLinks is not opposed to the creation of a cost model, this proposed solution does not get at the heart of the issue – that different technology types are placed on different footing under Staff’s proposal.  Instead, while not specifically proposed in the context of ministerial review, GeoLinks urges the Commission to take note of Frontier’s suggestion to create a review threshold where total project costs are below $5 million, and/ or cost per-household is below $3000 (seemingly regardless of technology-type) and apply a similar structure to the ministerial review process.[5]  GeoLinks asserts that regardless of what threshold, methodology, equation, etc. Staff uses for its ministerial review, it must be applied equally to all projects, regardless of technology type.

 

  1. The Commission Should Adopt and Adhere to the Proposed 21-day Challenge Process

Several commenters make suggestions regarding the appropriate process for challenging proposed CASF projects.  As an initial matter, GeoLinks believes that the challenge process is important to ensure CASF funds are not spent on projects where there is existing broadband service but asserts that the Commission must strike a balance to ensure adequate time to challenge without creating a challenge process that will cause endless delays to CASF project review.  As Race Telecommunications Communications Inc. (“Race”) attests, late challenges cause delays and can result in additional costs to an applicant.[6]   Therefore, GeoLinks supports the proposed 21-calendar day challenge process, but, similar to Race, only if there is strict adherence to it.[7]

GeoLinks urges the Commission to reject other proposed challenge processes and timeframes presented by other commenters that would significantly expand or contract the 21-day proposed process.  Joint Consumers, for example, propose “a 45-day challenge window from the date the application” is filed.[8]  While, Joint Consumers assert that 21-days may not be enough time to ensure substantive and meaningful challenges, it fails to provide any examples.[9]  GeoLinks asserts that for carriers who are actively tracking the CASF process and are on the CASF Distribution List, 21-days is sufficient to prepare and submit a challenge.  In addition, a 21-day limit ensures no unreasonable delays by a would-be challenger that could ultimately slow down the application process.

On the flip side, AT&T essentially suggests that the project-specific challenge process be eliminated.  AT&T urges the Commission to compose a list of eligible census blocks, including which are designated as low-income or high-priority, that carriers can use to prepare CASF applications.[10]  However, AT&T suggests that this list be created “each year before applications are submitted.”[11]  This proposal assumes one application period per year and fails to account for the ever-changing broadband landscape in California and for business model differences between larger, incumbent, fiber-based carriers and smaller, more nimble, competitive carriers.  First, due to the process for reporting and mapping broadband availability data, the California Broadband map does not change in real-time as availability changes.  Second, because smaller, competitive carriers may not be limited by fiber construction requirements, such as fixed-wireless providers, network deployment efforts can happen on a more rapid basis.  Limiting the ability to challenge CASF projects to once a year may mean CASF subsidies funding projects in areas where deployment occurs after the list is created (and the initial challenge period has been exhausted).  Or, it may have the effect of disincentivizing carriers from deploying their own infrastructure to unserved areas of the state outside of the CASF process.  In either event, AT&T’s proposed process should be rejected.

GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt its proposed 21-day process and reject any proposal to expand or contract that challenge window.

 

  1. The Commission Must Ensure the Right of First Refusal Submissions Process Does Not Become a Mechanism for Blocking Competition

As stated in its opening comments, GeoLinks urges the Commission to implement rules to ensure carriers do not use the Right of First Refusal (“ROFR”) process to block areas where they have no intention to deploy broadband infrastructure.  Several commenters express similar sentiments.  Gold Country Broadband Consortium, for example, expresses the importance for the Commission to understand how the ROFR process could be used to block competition, innovation and opportunity.[12]  Moreover, similar to GeoLinks’ suggestion, some commenters agree that there should be negative consequences for ROFR providers that fail to complete projects in a timely manner.[13]  GeoLinks maintains that the Commission should consider penalties for failure to construct an ROFR area after the initial 180-day period, or any granted extension, such as preclusion from participating in the CASF program.

 

  1. Connect America Fund Recipients Should be Subject to Mandatory Waiting Periods Before Becoming Eligible to Apply for CASF Funding.

As stated in its opening comments, in adopting any rules related to the treatment of Connect America Fund Phase II (“CAF”) recipients, GeoLinks urges the Commission to remember that these recipients made commitments to the FCC in exchange for receipt of CAF funds.  As an initial matter, GeoLinks agrees with CETF that there should be a waiting period before a CASF Application can be submitted for a CAF area.[14]  However, as GeoLinks suggested in its opening comments, this waiting period should apply specifically to the CAF recipient that opted not to complete a CAF build in that area.

As a specific example, GeoLinks cited a notice filed by Frontier in which it informed the Commission that it would not be pursuing a specific CAF area (Desert Shores) and the CASF application for the exact same area that Frontier filed the very next day.  In its opening comments, Frontier appears to laud its own actions as an effort to “leverage CAF deployment” and alerts the Commission that it may follow a similar path in other areas, depending on the Commission’s actions on its CASF application.[15]

While GeoLinks supports leveraging federal funds to maximize the effectiveness of the CASF program, GeoLinks does not support Frontier’s actions.  As GeoLinks noted in its opening comments, Frontier essentially blocked all other broadband providers from being able to seek CASF funding to serve the Desert Shores area – providers that may have proposed a better project for the area than that proposed by Frontier.  As such, GeoLinks continues to suggest CAF recipients that relinquish a CAF area be subject to minimum a 90-day mandatory waiting period before a CASF application for that area can be submitted (or longer, depending on when notice is provided).[16]

 

  1. The Commission Should Allow More Than One CASF Application Submission Period Each Calendar Year

GeoLinks agrees with other commenters that there should be more than one CASF application deadline per year.  In the Proposal, Staff addresses the approval delays that have, to date, been commonplace in the CASF program.[17]  Specifically, staff proposes two CASF grant application opportunities each year (every 180 days).  GeoLinks supports the notion of more than one application period per year.  As Race points out, an annual submission is too rigid and will result in more delated broadband service to the public.[18]  GeoLinks agrees and urges the Commission to adopt Race’s suggestion to accept CASF applications on a rolling basis, not on a set schedule.[19]

At a minimum, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt at least two application periods and reject any attempt to reduce the number of application periods.  Specifically, GeoLinks urges the Commission to reject AT&T’s suggestion that there should be a single deadline for CASF applications.[20]  As GeoLinks explained in its opening comments, more application periods will incentivize more service providers to participate in the CASF program.  As explained above, because smaller, competitive carriers may not be limited by fiber construction requirement, such as fixed-wireless providers, network deployment efforts can happen on a more rapid basis, meaning that decisions to expand existing infrastructure can happen more quickly.  Ignoring these factors when finalizing rules for the CASF program could ultimately disincentivize competitive carriers from applying at all.  As the Commission seeks to incentivize more participation in the CASF program, GeoLinks believes that ensuring multiple opportunities to submit CASF applications will help further this goal and encourages the Commission to adopt rules accordingly.

 

  1. Higher Proposed Speeds Should be Given More Weight as a Scoring Criteria

GeoLinks echoes the disappointment of other commenters regarding the changes to speed thresholds set forth in AB 1665.[21]  Therefore, the Commission must do something to ensure that unserved areas of California do not fall too far behind the national standard of 25 Mbps / 3 Mbps implemented by the FCC.

The Commission should reject outright AT&T’s assertion that because 10/1 “is a mandatory prerequisite for any application, the Commission should eliminate the points that Staff proposes to allocate for bandwidth speed.”[22]  This “good enough” approach does nothing to future-proof network design to ensure adequate speed and capacity for years to come and runs contrary to the goals of the CASF program.[23]  Instead, GeoLinks strongly agrees with Race that applications with faster speeds should be scored higher that those that propose slower speeds.[24]

 

  • CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, GeoLinks urges the Commission to adopt changes that ensure technology neutral administration of the CASF program, incentives for participation, promote robust, “future proof” CASF projects, and prevent gaming of the program to block competition.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

/s/ Melissa Slawson

 

Melissa Slawson

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

California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks

251 Camarillo Ranch Rd

Camarillo, CA 93012

 

May 1, 2018

 

[1] For more information about fixed-wireless technology and GeoLinks’ Clearfiber™ network, visit https://geolinks.com/what-is-fixed-wireless-internet
[2] CCTA Opening Comments at 9-10, expressing concern that “the criteria for triggering ‘expedited ministerial review’ is not ‘technology neutral’ as required by Pub. Util. Code § 281(f)(1).”
[3] The Utility Reform Network, and the Greenlining Institute (“Joint Consumers”) Opening Comments at 2.
[4] Citizens Telecommunications Company of California Inc., Frontier Communications of the Southwest Inc., and Frontier California Inc. (“Frontier”) Opening Comments at 5.
[5] GeoLinks supports this flat per-household cost but cautions against the price-per-project cost without additional requirements (perhaps such as minimum households served, or minimum area covered, etc.).
[6] Race Opening Comments at 9.
[7] See Id. at 9.
[8] Joint Consumers Opening Comments at 15.
[9] Id. at 14.
[10] AT&T Opening Comments at 10.
[11] Id. at 9.
[12] Gold Country Broadband Consortium Opening Comments at 2.
[13] California Emerging Technology Fund (“CETF”) Opening Comments at 3.
[14] Id. at 2.
[15] Frontier Opening Comments at 9
[16] See GeoLinks’ Opening Comments at 7.
[17] Ruling, Appendix C. at 13.
[18] Race Opening Comments at 8.
[19] Id. at 8.
[20] See AT&T at 19 and at FN 12.
[21] See e.g. Race Communications at 4, California Center for Rural Policy, Rural County Representatives of California, Upstate California Connect Consortium and the Northeastern California Connect Consortium at 6, North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium at 5.
[22] AT&T Opening Comments at 22.
[23] See Joint Consumers Opening Comments at 11, suggesting that the Commission look to more factors than cost when assessing scoring criteria.
[24] Race Opening Comments at 5.
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