Telecompetitor recently ran an article on Charter’s plans to invest in rural areas. The article ended with a recap on what’s up in the world of technology-neutral and how policy (really funding) has an impact on whether folks are really technology-neutral or not…
So why is Charter emphasizing rural investment and the importance of a technology-neutral approach at this time? The company also did not immediately respond to our request for examples of policy issues where technology considerations would be important, but I can hazard a few guesses.
The Universal Service Fund (USF) and Connect America Fund (CAF) normally are important policy areas when it comes to rural broadband, as those programs are helping to fund some deployments in high-cost areas. In administering those programs, the FCC has made an effort to be technologically-neutral, although anticipated rules for the upcoming CAF II auction are expected to favor lower-latency deployments – a rule that puts satellite broadband at a disadvantage. Telecom companies also have an advantage over cable or wireless companies in the areas they serve, as the USF and CAF programs essentially give telcos the first right of refusal for funding for those areas.
Traditionally cable companies haven’t been very interested in USF and CAF and have not sought such funding, however. And the video accompanying Charter’s post today suggests that hasn’t changed, as the company boasts that it is investing millions in broadband in New York state “all at company cost” and “without tax-payer subsidies from the state.”
The idea of being technologically-neutral could come into play with regard to the CBRS band, which includes the 3.5 GHz band that Charter has been using for fixed wireless trials. But open issues there pertain largely to fixed versus mobile wireless and small companies versus larger companies, rather than wireline versus wireless.
I’d be interested to hear if readers have some ideas about why technology-neutrality is so important to Charter. I will also post an update whenever I may hear back from them.