Broadband Communities

Show Guide 2019

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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BROADBAND COMMUNITIES SUMMIT 2019 97 Show Guide Sponsor electricity consumption, among other uses, including those that are currently in development or have yet to be conceived. Those sensors will give system operators more information, flexibility and control. However, according to the 2017 CASF Annual Report from the CPUC, 618,719 rural California households do not have broadband because they lack network access. That means the internet backbone and/or middle mile hasn't been connected to those communities. Without the broadband infrastructure to support the communications, none of those benefits can be realized. Lack of broadband also creates inefficiencies and extra costs in non-energy transactions. Though many utility customers use email and the internet to receive and pay bills, that option is not available to the millions of households without meaningful internet access. The data in Figure 5, which California's IOUs provided to CETF, show the significant disparity between the number of customers enrolled in California's low-income bill assistance program, California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE), and those with email addresses on file with the utilities. It is reasonable to assume that a number of these households have email addresses but have chosen not to provide them. However, given the income correlation in Figure 3, it is also highly likely that a number of these households are digitally disconnected. Email correspondence and internet access by customers creates a time and money savings by eliminating costs associated with printing and postage. It also facilitates near instantaneous communications, which is beneficial for utilities that provide their customers with emergency alert notifications. Between enabling smart meter technology, robust demand response programs, real-time price and usage information, grid stability, cost savings, lower energy demand and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, it should be clear that the public policy goals of legislatures and utility commissions and the operations of electric utilities already depend on access to a high-speed communications network and that dependence will only increase over time. Even if electric utilities are not going to become broadband providers, they can play a role in facilitating a greater degree of broadband adoption. And regulatory commissions that set broadband-dependent goals for those electricity providers can assist and encourage the utilities (and the broadband companies) in reaching 100 percent deployment and adoption rates approaching 100 percent. BROADBAND ADOPTION AND UTILITY ASSISTANCE A siloed approach is no longer appropriate. Everything is technology dependent, and as we have seen, the electricity (and natural gas) sector is no different. Given the evidence that the present and future of the energy grid depend on communications technologies, those entities that will depend on a ubiquitously deployed and adopted network – utility companies and government – should play a role in increasing both deployment and adoption. What follows are three specific "interventions" that legislative and regulatory entities and utility companies can undertake. Advanced Services Fund In 2008, the California Legislature and the CPUC created the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). It was created specifically to offset the higher costs of broadband infrastructure deployment in unserved rural areas. Funding for CASF comes from a monthly surcharge on telecommunications bills. The fee is paid by customers, collected by telecommunications companies and remitted to the CPUC. CASF funding is available to all companies deploying broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas in the state and is technology-neutral, meaning it can be used for wireless, wireline, cable or fiber-based communications connection technologies. This year, for the first time, the CASF is authorized to spend a significant amount on adoption-related efforts as well as rural infrastructure. Given the relative percentages of the households that make up the digital divide, closing it without spending money on low-income adoption programs will be unlikely in the time frame needed for full implementation of broadband-dependent energy-saving measures. Digital Communication Efforts by California Investor Owned Utilities Current Enrolled CARE Customers in IOU Service Territory PG&E SCE SDG&E SoCalGas 1,406,799 1,227,268 282,388 1,557,184 CARE Enrolled Households with Email Addresses on File PG&E SCE SDG&E SoCalGas 488,752 445,807 197,672 761,709 35% of total CARE 36% of total CARE 70% of total CARE 49% of total CARE Figure 5

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