CETF Tells FCC To Set Broadband Adoption In Charter Deal

Law 360 

Margaret Harding McGill | January 29, 2016 

Charter Communications is taking steps to bridge the digital divide with its low­income broadband offering, but members of a California nonprofit said the company should go further by setting broadband adoption goals among low­income households in the state, according to filings Friday that detail meetings with Federal Communications Commission officials.

Representatives of California Emerging Technology Fund, or CETF, met with Commissioners Michael O’Rielly, Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel and staffers for Chairman Tom Wheeler to discuss imposing a public interest benefit on Charter in order to gain FCC approval of its $55 billion merger with Time Warner Cable and $10.4 billion acquisition of Bright House Networks.

CETF, which did not take a position on whether the overall transaction should be approved, said a condition to approval should be that the new company have a goal of broadband adoption in 696,000 to 960,000 low-­income households in California. 

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Time Warner Cable-Charter Concerns Voiced at CPUC Hearing

CTFN

Robert W. Welkos | January 28, 2016

Many of the questions raised by critics of the proposed $78.7 billion merger of Charter with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, focused on the fuzziness of the local details being presented by the applicants regarding how the transaction would impact millions of customers in Southern California, particularly low-income Internet broadband users.

Representatives of Common Cause, the Greenlining Institute, Stop the Cap!, and DISH Network urged the CPUC to reject the merger because it does not comport with the public benefits required by state law.

One of the chief concerns was the market concentration in Southern California that would result from the merger. “The New Charter will have very high concentration in the Southern California area,” Ana Maria Johnson, program and project supervisor at the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, the consumer advocacy arm of the CPUC, told CTFN during a break in the hearing.

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Banda Ancha Para Todos

La Opinion

Por Virginia Gaglionone | 05 Diciembre 2015

La campaña para que las comunidades en desventaja puedan tener acceso veloz al internet está cobrando fuerza, y ahora cuenta con el apoyo de la Junta de Supervisores de Los Ángeles. Los cinco supervisores votaron unánimemente para apoyar la campaña delFondo de Tecnologías Emergentes de California (California Emerging Technology Fund), para reducir el costo de la banda ancha, y mejorar el conocimiento digital de las comunidades minoritarias.

“El acceso de alta velocidad a la internet es esencial en el mundo digital que está constantemente evolucionando”, indicó la supervisora Hilda Solís, quien propuso la medida junto a la supervisoraSheila Kuehl. “Es necesario hacer más para cerrar la división digital que existe en el condado de Los Ángeles”. La supervisora observó que al no tener acceso a banda ancha, los residentes de comunidades en desventaja están siendo marginalizados e ignorados.

“En el mundo conectado de hoy, es virtualmente imposible conseguir un empleo, o acceder a cuidado de la salud sin una conexión de internet”, señaló la supervisora Sheila Kuehl.

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L.A. County Endorses Internet Access for Seniors and Poor

Los Angeles Times

By Matt Hamilton | November 27, 2015

Recognizing how essential the Internet is for people looking for jobs and social services, the Board of Supervisors voted this week to push for affordable high-speed Internet access for Los Angeles County seniors, low-income residents and people with disabilities.

In a unanimous decision, the five-member board joined the California Emerging Technology Fund's campaign to urge the Federal Communications Commission to establish a comprehensive Lifeline program that lowers the cost of broadband and enhances overall digital literacy among disadvantaged communities.

The board's support comes as the FCC has been taking steps to revamp its original Lifeline program, which was established nearly 30 years ago to provide affordable phone service to low-income Americans. In recent months, commissioners have publicly committed to restructuring the program and focus on access to broadband, calling it "essential to participation in modern society."

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CPUC ALJ Issues Favorable Proposed Decision

Fierce Telecom 

November 10, 2015

Full California Public Utilities Commission Expected to Vote on the Final Order by End of Year

NORWALK, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Frontier Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: FTR) announced that on Friday, November 6, 2015Administrative Law Judge Karl J. Bemesderfer with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a favorable Proposed Decision (PD) proposing approval of Frontier's proposed acquisition of Verizon's local wireline, broadband and video operations, including the FiOS network. The company has already received all other necessary regulatory approvals, including from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and theJustice Department. Frontier Communications along with other parties will be filing comments on the PD by November 20, 2015. Pending final CPUC approval in California, Frontier expects to close the transaction at the end of the first quarter of 2016.

Kathleen Abernathy, EVP, External Affairs, Frontier Communications said, "We are pleased that the PD finds that our proposed settlements with theOffice of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA), TURN and Center for Accessible Technology, California Emerging Technology Fund, Greenlining, and others address the public interest requirements to be considered by the Commission. The Public Participation Hearings conducted this summer by Commissioner Catherine Sandoval and Judge Bemesderfer informed these agreements and contributed to the settlements. We will continue to work through any remaining issues raised in the PD and address them in our comments, which are due in a few weeks. As we have publicly stated in all our filed testimony, we look forward to the opportunity to increase our presence in California and bring investment, jobs, and increased broadband availability to consumers across the state, in both urban and rural markets."

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Net Neutrality Lawsuit Delays Lifeline Revamp

Fierce Telecom 

By Samantha Bookman | October 30, 2015 

The move to extend low-cost broadband services to Lifeline recipients continues to draw controversy, with a lawsuit over net neutrality rules delaying the FCC from making a decision on whether to require Universal Service Fund fees of Internet service providers. Proponents of a proposed low-cost broadband option, meanwhile, are continuing to try and convince the commission to move ahead on the issue.

Currently, telecom carriers are required to pay into the USF -- fees that are typically tacked onto consumers' telephone bills to cover the cost. The USF provides basic voice service to consumers with limited income through the federal Lifeline program. With the FCC's net neutrality rules classifying broadband providers as telecommunications services, it's likely that ISPs will need to pay USF fees as well.

However, the FCC has so far delayed making a decision as to whether ISPs will need to pay USF fees as it looks for "more certainty" in its net neutrality decision, according to Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, speaking to the Senate Commerce Committee this week.

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Classes for 'Computer Challenged' Residents Get Funding

Sonora, CA – Starting early next year, Tuolumne County residents may tap free computer training, courtesy of a multi-agency partnership, further fueled by $40,000 in local and state funds.

Three-quarters of the grant monies have been provided by the Sonora Area Foundation (SAF) and the remaining $10,000 comes through the California Emerging Technology Fund.

Especially geared for those interested in learning with little or no experience, the training will provide computer learning basics for a variety of electronic devices from computers to smart phones; securely navigating the Internet; maintaining online privacy; executing job searches and online education programs; working with photos, social media, and more.

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Poll: California's Digital Divide Narrowing Slightly

San Jose Mercury News 

by George Avalos | June 16, 2015

The digital divide between broadband haves and have-nots has narrowed but still remains an electronic chasm, according to a report released Tuesday by the California Emerging Technology Fund and The Field Poll.

About 79 percent of households in California have broadband connections at home, while 21 percent do not have access, according to the latest Field Poll. The Field organization surveyed 1,664 California households to measure at-home penetration of broadband services, in a study undertaken for the nonprofit California Technology Fund.

"We clearly still have a digital divide," said Sunne McPeak, president and chief executive of the California Emerging Technology Fund.

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The FCC Wants to Expand Internet Subsidies for the Poor

The Washington Post

By Brian Fung | May 28, 2015

Federal regulators hope to bridge a yawning gap in Internet adoption by expanding a subsidy program for poor Americans that for years has helped millions connect to basic telephone service.

Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, will circulate a proposal to his colleagues Thursday that would radically update the 30-year-old aid program, known as Lifeline, according to FCC officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan is not yet public.

For the first time, the proposal would allow program participants to apply their discounts to standalone high-speed Internet service. Although Lifeline supports broadband when it comes bundled with phone service, it currently does not allow the poor to use the $9.25-a-month subsidy to pay for independent Internet plans.

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The New York Times

F.C.C. Chief Seeks Broadband Plan to Aid the Poor

By Rebecca R. Ruiz

May 28, 2015

For 30 years, the federal government has helped millions of low-income Americans pay their phone bills, saying that telephone service is critical to summoning medical help, seeking work and, ultimately, climbing out of poverty. Now, the nation’s top communications regulator will propose offering those same people subsidized access to broadband Internet.

On Thursday, that regulator, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, will circulate a plan to his fellow commissioners suggesting sweeping changes to a $1.7 billion subsidy program charged with ensuring that all Americans have affordable access to advanced telecommunications services, according to senior agency officials.

The effort is the F.C.C.’s strongest recognition yet that high-speed Internet access is as essential to economic well-being as good transportation and telephone service. Mr. Wheeler will propose potentially giving recipients a choice of phone service, Internet service or a mix of both, the officials said. He will also suggest new measures to curb fraud, a source of criticism in recent years.

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