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.
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.
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.
What you need to about AB 375
Back in April, Congress sent proposed legislation to President Trump that wiped away the limit of how Internet providers use and sell customer data, Federal officials have now approved that Internet providers can sell your Internet history, app usage, mobile location data, financial information and email content/messages.
In California, lawmakers are trying to reverse the new Federal law by introducing AB 375.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) introduced the bill last week.
2. Assembly Bill (AB) 375 is also known as the California Broadband Internet Privacy Act, which will work in three ways:
- The bill would prohibit an Internet service provider from using, disclosing, selling, or permitting access to customer personal information, except as provided in that act.
- The bill would authorize a customer to give prior opt-in consent, which may be revoked by the customer at any time, to an Internet service provider to use, disclose, sell, or permit access to that customer’s personal information.
- The bill would prohibit an Internet service provider from refusing to serve or to limit service to a customer who does not provide consent or charging a customer a penalty or offering a customer a discount or another benefit based on the customer’s decision to provide consent.
3. AB 375 would require Internet Service Providers, such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T, to get permission from customers before using, selling or permitting access to data about their browsing history.
4. California is the 20th state to introduce a bill that aims to restore privacy rules since the Federal ruling.
5. According to Assemblymember Chau, “The idea that a person should have some say about how their Internet Service Provider can use, share or sell their personal information is not a controversial question for everyday consumers – it is common sense. Congress and the Administration went against the will of the vast majority of Americans when they revoked the FCC’s own privacy rules in April, but California is going to restore what Washington stripped away.”
6. So far, more than 25 civil rights, consumer protection, privacy, technology, and non-profit organizations support AB 375, including: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, Consumer Federation of California and Electronic Frontier Foundation
We at Race Communications, believe with full conviction that your information is private and should be disseminated at your own discretion.
Information sent to Race is regarded as private and is kept in the strictest confidence and it will not be sold to third parties for marketing or any other purposes, ever. Rest assured, you can always have the utmost certainty that Race will protect your private information.
For Kathy Zimbro of Phelan, CA, it was a 45 day process trying to receive service from an incumbent provider (Frontier), but after all of her exhausted efforts, she ultimately had to attempt to find another provider before moving her business location due to the lack of service.
In the same town, Kimberly Fetzer struggled with the same issues. She was not able to work from home due to constant service outages which resulted in her termination.
These are just some of the stories of people living in the “Digital Divide.”
While many Americans take the Internet for granted, people in rural America struggle to keep up with technology. Over the last decade, a dial up connection brought millions of them Internet access, but with the evolution of services such as: video-on-demand, online job applications, telemedicine and even Internet classrooms, the minimum standard for adequate broadband has been re-defined.
These advances in technology all require a high-speed connection that is almost exclusively available from select elite Internet Service Providers across the country, leaving many Americans in the dark.
Although a home broadband connection was once considered a “luxury” for many, today, as technology advances, the Web is a necessity.
The Digital Divide refers to the inequalities between individuals that lack access to modern information communications technology.
Nationally, approximately 11.5% of the total U.S. population did not have Internet access in 2016.
And in California, despite a robust technology economy, the Digital Divide has become a system for the haves and have nots.
Although the gap has somewhat narrowed, a 2016 survey conducted by the Field Research Corp found that in the state that practically invented the Internet, 30 percent of Californians (nearly 12 million people) do not have meaningful broadband at home.
Most strikingly, the promise of broadband Internet is still elusive for many low-income, elderly and rural Americans either due to high costs or poor to non-existent service in some areas.
Left unchecked, this divide will continue to drive disparities that will weigh on our economy.
At Race Communications, we have made it our company’s mission to provide reliable high-speed Internet. Our fiber optic networks empower our customers to “Gigafy” their daily lives through our Internet, TV and voice packages in areas that often go underserved/unserved.
Our consumers have used Race’s services ranging from starting their own businesses to building out their public safety’s communications in times of emergencies. At Race, we’ve worked with the California Public Utilities Commission and other advocacy groups to build and offer affordable gigabit Internet services to various communities throughout the state.
Call us at 1-877-722-3833 or visit us at Race.com to see if we provide our fiber optic services in your area.
Meet Danny, our newly promoted OSP Team member. He’s been a part of the Race family for two years now. None of his days are alike. One day could consist of splicing fiber, or overseeing conduit runs. Read more about how Danny spends his time at Race.
How long have you been at Race Communications?
It will be two years in September.
What exactly do you do at Race?
When I was first hired, I was brought on as a field tech, but I just recently moved over to our OSP Team (Outside Plant) about a month and a half ago.
What’s your typical day like?
Since I moved over, I am still learning the basics as to what we are doing. But so far, I’ve plugged in panels for drops and installs. I’ve also done cross connects for splitters, and helped the installers with issues. Basically I am running around right now! I don’t have my daily duties as of yet.
What skills have you gained since working at Race?
The biggest one would have to be splicing fiber. It’s mostly what I’ve been doing for OSP. Other than that, when I was installing, basically being able to install our equipment. So the router and knowing how fiber works. Different things like that, but the biggest has to be the fiber splicing.
What three words would you use to describe Race?
Productive, professional and efficient.
Bonus Question: What’s your favorite sport?
Any favorite teams?
Of course, the Oakland Raiders! (laughs)
The battle for net neutrality is on.
Now for those who aren’t really familiar with the term net neutrality, think of it as the basic rights Internet users have to access the Web. This means that Internet providers can’t favor certain websites over others and companies aren’t allowed to charge consumers a fee on popular sites.
Last month, the FCC voted to propose a new review of the rules, with the goal of loosening the regulations on the industry, which aims to slash Title II, the legal framework for net neutrality rules that protects online free speech and innovation.
The proposal also suggests repealing the “general conduct” rule that allows the FCC to investigate business practices of Internet providers that it suspects may be anti-competitive.
But with the new ruling, many of the Internet’s top companies are not in support of this move.
So far, tech giants such as Amazon, Etsy, Netflix and numerous others have all joined the fight—and are calling for a day of action.
Officially, July 12th will be deemed: Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.
According to Battleforthenet.com: “The FCC wants to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies control over what we see and do online. If they get their way, they’ll allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees. On July 12th, the Internet will come together to stop them.”
At Race, this vote isn’t something we’re for. We believe the Internet is a freedom that has incredible power to change our daily lives. We feel that consumers should be able to visit any site that they choose and use the Internet freely. Whether you decide to stream Netflix or shop on Amazon, consumers should be able to stream without the fear of having their speeds throttled or blocked from visiting certain websites.
If you wish to sign up, learn more information or join the movement, visit: https://www.battleforthenet.com/july12/