This week, RCRC submitted formal comments to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Phase III of its Broadband Proceeding. The 2021-2022 state budget provided a total of $2 billion of federal funding for last-mile broadband infrastructure over the next three years, split evenly to projects in “urban” counties and “rural” counties. Each county is required to receive $5 million for last-mile projects, irrespective of size, prior to distribution of the balance of the funding. The CPUC proposes to define “rural” based on the classifications of “metropolitan” and “nonmetropolitan” utilized by the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Ruling also provides alternatives to defining “rural” for the purposes of distributing the federal funding, including utilizing the RCRC membership as the definition of “rural”.  

The three methodologies presented by the CPUC create funding disparities across the RCRC member counties. RCRC staff submitted comments recommending an alternative distribution methodology, based on the OMB methodology included the proceeding. Specifically, RCRC requested that the 21 “rural” counties under the OMB methodology, continue to be classified as “rural” but that the remaining 37 “urban” counties then be divided into “Large Urbans” and “Small Urbans.”  This hybrid methodology uses the RCRC definition to define the “Small Urbans” and allocates 16/37th of the Urban funding to those counties, based on number of unserved households. This methodology acknowledges the difference in kind and size between the counties in the “urban” classification, allowing rural counties to compete for funding with like-resourced jurisdictions. As currently constructed, the OMB methodology set forth by the CPUC would require 16 RCRC member counties to compete with large urban jurisdictions, such as San Diego and Los Angeles, for funds. 

For further information, please contact RCRC Senior Legislative Affairs Advocate Tracy Rhine.