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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L.A. Times

Lifeline Subsidy Program Would Cover Broadband Under FCC Chief's Plan

By Jim Puzzanghera

May 28, 2015

A federal program that subsidizes phone service for low-income consumers would be overhauled to help expand access to high-speed Internet under a proposal Thursday by the head of the Federal Communications Commission.

Households would have the choice of using the monthly $9.25 Lifeline subsidy to pay for a broadband connection or a phone line, according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's plan.

"Broadband is key to Lifeline’s future," he said in a blog post. 

High-speed Internet has become an essential service available in 95% of households with annual incomes of more than $150,000, Wheeler said.

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Philadelphia is Near the Bottom in Proportion of Homes with Broadband Service

By Bob Fernandez

March 29, 2015

Dr. Ethel Allen Elementary School in Strawberry Mansion lets out at 2:49, and not long afterward, on most afternoons, 40 to 50 boys and girls stream through the white door of Pastor Hezekiah Lampley's North 31st Street church for free soda, bags of chips, and a quick prayer.

Some days, some of those same kids also climb the creaky stairs to the second floor of Lampley's Morning Star Church of God in Christ, where the pastor keeps six broadband-connected desktop computers.

Lampley inherited the computers as castoffs six or seven years ago, but they are still serviceable for research or writing school papers. As Kysheem, Tianna, Kasim, Gemini, and others looked through the fridge for sodas or waited to hold hands for prayer, Lampley asked them individually one day last week, "Do you have a computer at home?"

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L.A. Times

L.A. Times Editorial Supports Internet For All Now Position On Comcast

Times says requiring Comcast to meet goals for discount Internet subscription is “reasonable”

Today, the Los Angeles Time published an editorial, entitled “Comcast Merger a Chance to Narrow the Digital Divide.”  The Times writes that the California Emerging Technology Fund “has shown that the right combination of partners and programs can yield sign-up rates of 45% and more. It's reasonable to demand as much from Comcast and any other broadband provider that wants to expand its turf without building a network and competing.”


Comcast merger a chance to narrow the digital divide

The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to decide this month whether Comcast's proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable's operations in the state would be in the public interest. An administrative law judge has recommended that the takeover be approved but with a number of conditions that have caused Comcast to cry foul. These include requiring the merged company to sign up 45% of the low-income households in its area for Comcast's discounted broadband Internet service, or at least as high a percentage as it has signed up among all homes in its territory. Comcast argues that simply offering its discounted "Internet Essentials" in Time Warner Cable's service area will be a boon to low-income families, given that they don't have access to anything like it today. But if Comcast expects to merge its way into those communities, the public benefit should be greater than if Comcast had chosen to compete with Time Warner Cable instead of buying it.

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Wall Street Cheat Sheet

Comcast’s ‘Internet Essentials’ Program Needs an Upgrade

By Sam Becker

February 25, 2015

That fact has not been lost on The Consumerist, which recently ran an article spotlighting the fact that Comcast does not — despite its immense profits and near-monopolistic market share — have plans to upgrade its special program for low-income customers. The problem with that, The Consumerist says, is that Comcast originally made the deal to create and maintain said program as a part of its merger with NBC Universal in 2011. By seemingly ignoring that program, Comcast may not be holding up its end of the deal.

The program itself, called Internet Essentials, has a stated mission to bring lower-income residents broadband, access to which is growing more important with each passing year. “Internet Essentials from Comcast offers low-cost Internet service, computer equipment and free digital literacy training to families with at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program,” reads Comcast’s description of the program, which includes home Internet access for a flat rate of about $10 per month and doesn’t feature any fees.

The main issue is that in order for the Comcast-TWC merger to be finalized, it has to clear some final legal hurdles. The issue of the Internet Essentials program and its poor current manifestation is something that may slow that process.

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