Everyone Wants Race! What If I’m Outside the Coverage Area?

We at Race Communications always strive to be transparent with the communities we serve.  As most of our customers know, Race partners with the State of California and receives grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF).  To date, Race has been awarded ten separate grants from the CASF to advance broadband adoption and infrastructure deployment in unserved and underserved areas consisting of over 16,000 households. The grants only cover a portion of the construction cost, up to 60% for most projects. That means Race funds the remaining amount.

The feedback from Race customers once they are connected has been tremendous and many are taken aback by how fast their internet speeds are (Figure 1).  This leads to a lot of interest from nearby friends and family – some of whom live outside our coverage area. This is often followed by the following questions: “I live right down the street! Why can’t I get Race?” or “I have terrible internet, why aren’t you coming to my area?”.

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Figure 1. Race Customer Speed Test in Tehachapi, CA

Due to the requirements of CASF, we must serve the areas deemed unserved or underserved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).  According to the CPUC, an underserved area is defined as follows: where broadband is available, but no wireline or wireless facilities-based provider offers service at advertised speeds of at least 6 mbps download and 1.5 mbps upload.  This means that on occasion, we will be asked to remove an area from our initial application.

Let’s use our newest approved CASF project in Phelan, CA as an example.  We call it the “swiss cheese” effect (Figure 2).  

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Figure 2. Phelan, CA Coverage Map

As you can see by the coverage map in blue, there are gaps and pockets that are not within the coverage area.  Those areas are deemed “served” by the CPUC, meaning that these areas have broadband available at speeds of at least 6 mbps download and 1.5 mbps upload. This means that the CPUC has performed speed tests in the area which show that the minimum speed requirements have been met.  In other instances, another carrier may claim to provide service in that area.  This will disqualify an area from receiving CASF funding for broadband upgrades.

We at Race know that this doesn’t always mean the entire area has adequate coverage and broadband connectivity can be lacking or even non-existent – therefore we evaluate building to the areas taken out as a separate project. Lee Vining, CA in Mono County is one such community.  The entire town of Lee Vining was removed from a previous CASF application, but due to the location of our infrastructure and the level of interest from the community, Race decided to build a fiber-to-the-home network to the community. The project was 100% self-funded.

So if you happen to fall outside our coverage area, don’t lose hope.  This doesn’t mean that you will not receive service from Race – it simply means that your area doesn’t fall under the CASF guidelines and will not be built as part of a CASF-funded project. It doesn’t mean that Race won’t expand service as part of a separate project in the future [if the demand is there and existing infrastructure makes it possible]. We encourage those who live outside our coverage areas to submit an “Out of Area” inquiry form at www.race.com/inquiry.  Race engineers are constantly reevaluating possible expansions to our coverage areas.  

The Internet for All Act?

This week the California Assembly Bill 1665, dubbed “The Internet for All Act”, was amended and passed through to the State Senate claiming that the appropriated $300 million it raises from surcharges will help to close the digital divide in California.  On the surface, this is a positive move towards providing broadband internet service to “underserved households”. But is it really?

What you need to know:

AB 1665 was amended by assembly members like Eduardo Garcia (56th Assembly District) to mainly benefit large internet providers like AT&T and Frontier Communications.  Frontier Communications has a long-standing history in over promising and under-delivering when it comes to bringing adequate broadband to many of their markets, especially those that are rural.  The community of Phelan, CA is a prime example of how dissatisfied customers are with their service from Frontier. This is in part why Race Communications was awarded the a $27.6 million dollar grant in July 2017. The grant was awarded by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). The grant is for Race Communications’ broadband project in the Phelan region and will bring a brand new fiber to the home network to over 7,600 households.

As AB 1665 has been re-written so has the definition of “underserved households” and the definition of “underserved households” should raise eyebrows amongst California residents.

Here is what the current bill says and how consumers should read between the lines:

AB 1665: “Households for which no broadband provider offers broadband service at speeds of at least 6 megabits per second (mbps) downstream and one mbps upstream.”

What does that mean? This means that if your household is receiving anything above speeds of 6 Mbps you are deemed “served”.  The original bill put this benchmark of at least 6Mbps download/1.5Mbps upload.  We at Race know that speeds below 25 Mbps aren’t sufficient for consumers anymore.  

This requirement is also far below the benchmark set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2016, of at least 25Mbps download/3Mbps upload

AB 1665: “Projects that only deploy middle-mile infrastructure are not eligible for grant funding.”

Race currently has projects in Mono County which are connected to the middle-mile infrastructure provided by the Digital 395 middle-mile project.  If AB 1665 passes with the current wording regarding “middle-mile infrastructure” then projects such as Digital 395 and Digital 299 wouldn’t be eligible for future grants. These types of projects are crucial for the build out of adequate broadband service in rural communities. Without these projects, last mile providers like Race would not be able to provide service to remote areas like Chalfant Valley, Sunny Slopes and Bridgeport.

So what does this mean for consumers?
In a nutshell, this means less areas qualify for receiving funds from the state and the money will most likely go to AT&T, Frontier and larger broadband providers who historically avoid building infrastructure in rural areas, due to the costs associated.  This also means that smaller independent providers like Race will face extreme difficulty in qualifying for grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) should the bill pass as it is currently written.

We know that the two main reasons why consumers switch their internet providers are price and performance.  Race surpasses the competition in both.  Race provides fiber-optic broadband internet service which outperforms internet service via copper wiring like AT&T and Frontier.  With over 20 active projects across the state of California, Race has seen the benefits of CASF and what adequate broadband can do for rural communities.


What can you do?
If you feel that your community deserves to be brought into today’s technologically advanced world, let your voice be heard and write Governor Jerry Brown’s Office and let him know why he should veto AB-1665. Demand adequate broadband service and oppose lowering the standards and elevating the barrier of entry for independent providers.  You can visit Governor Brown’s website here or call (916) 445-2841. 

 

Gigafied Countryside by Race Communications

Rural Communities Need Access to Sufficient Internet

There is certainly a digital divide between urban and rural communities when it comes to accessing efficient broadband internet. The statistics don’t lie!  39% of rural Americans lack access to internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload compared to only 4% of urban Americans.  

Just take it from some of our friends in Phelan, CA who recently ran speed tests with their current internet providers.  Some aren’t even able to reach speeds of at least 4 Mbps.  They can’t wait for Race to complete our Gigafy Phelan Project and gain access to lightening internet speeds up to 1000 Mbps.

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Why is this important?

The internet isn’t just about streaming, playing games and entertainment anymore.  Internet connectivity has become vital to education, jobs and even local safety services.  Whether it’s a middle school student who has to do research for a project or a local business owner who needs to hire more people, the use of the internet has become a necessity just like water and electricity.  According to NPR, “In some rural areas, parents have to drive their kids to the parking lot of the local library so their kids can file homework.”

Why are rural areas “lagging” behind?

Bottom line…building the infrastructure for internet connectivity is expensive, especially in areas where the terrain is unpredictable and homes are spread apart.  This is the reason why Race Communications has teamed up with the California Public Utilities Commission to receive grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to build fiber to premise networks in these areas.  Mono County for example is an area that has a population of only 4.5 people per square mile.  Race is currently working on bringing fiber internet to areas in Mono County deemed underserved and unserved by the CASF. Other areas in which Race has been approved to build networks are Phelan in San Bernardino County and Occidental in Sonoma County.  

Stay up to date on all of our projects here at Race Communications by following our Blog!