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UPDATE: Verizon's request for extension for broadband service to South County denied

February 5, 2013

This cell tower near Crowley Lake solved some of the community's overall communication blackout last month when it was activated, but residents were told this week they might have to wait as much as three months longer for the high speed broadband that was previously promised to them by Verizon by the end of January.

UPDATE, FEB. 5: As of Jan. 31, the state Public Utilities Commission denied Verizon's request for a three-month extension in providing high speed broadband capacity to Swall Meadows and Crowley Lake, putting it out of compliance with an agreement to provide such serice by Jan. 28. The letter is attached at the end of the story below, which was published in the print version of the Mammoth Times on Feb. 1.

Swall Meadows and Crowley Lake residents might have to wait another three months for the high speed broadband that was promised by the end of January, if Verizon gets its way.

Verizon was required to provide high speed broadband service to the two communities after a Swall Meadows resident, Stephen Kalish, brought to light the fact that the communications company had violated a state Scenic Highway regulation (U.S. 395 is a Scenic Highway).

To make amends, the state ordered Verizon to provide the service by Jan. 28. This week, however, the communications company informed the county it was asking for a three-month extension on its January deadline.

There had been delays beyond its control, the company said in the letter asking for the extension.
The request did not go over well with the Mono County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday when they met in a special session to appoint an interim County Administrative Officer.

“Verizon has known about their commitment for 18 months,” said District 2 Supervisor Fred Stump. “I’m not surprised, but they haven’t even put in the fiber optic shed that they will need. But waiting another three months, that’s not acceptable.”

The county sent a letter to Verizon outlining its displeasure, and another to the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) stating the same objections.

It was the PUC that forced Verizon to provide service to the two, hard-to-service communities in the first place, after Verizon violated state Scenic Highway regulations by not getting a waiver to put its cables above ground between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes (instead of burying the cables as is usually required on Scenic Highway regulations).

The PUC gave Verizon the option of either paying a fine or providing service to the two communities.

Verizon chose the latter.

NOTE: HERE IS A COPY OF THE LETTER SENT BY THE PUC TO VERIZON EXPLAINING WHY IT DECLINED VERIZON'S REQUEST FOR AN EXTENSION:

STATE OF CALIFORNIA EDMUND G. BROWN JR., Governor
PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION
505 VAN NESS AVENUE
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94102-3298

January 31, 2013

Mr. Kurt Rasmussen
Vice President-Government Relations
Verizon California Inc.
201 Spear St., 7th Floor –Suite 704

San Francisco, CA 94105

Re: Verizon’s Request For An Extension of Deadline in Resolutions T-17330 & T-17350
to Provide Broadband Service to the Communities of Crowley Lakes and Swall Meadows

Dear Mr. Rasmussen:

I received your January 22, 2013 extension request to provide broadband service to the communities of Crowley Lake and Swall Meadows. Verizon submitted this request pursuant to Rule 16.6 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure.

Resolutions T-17330 and T-17350 require Verizon to provide broadband service to the communities of Crowley Lake and Swall Meadows by January 28, 2013. Resolution T-17330, approved by the Commission on July 28, 2011, requires Verizon to provide service by this date in response to its violations of P.U. Code § 320.

Three developments influenced my decision. First, on January 23, 2013, Communications Division staff requested that Verizon provide additional information by January 28, 2013, regarding the reasons for the delay in project completion and the timing of its extension request. Verizon has yet to answer this request. Second, in a project update provided to Communications Division staff on December 10, 2012, six weeks before Verizon submitted this extension request, Verizon did not indicate it would need more time to complete this project. Finally, the Mono County Board of Supervisors and local residents sent letters opposing the extension.

Given the lack of information explaining the project delay, coupled with local opposition to Verizon’s extension request, I hereby deny the request. As Verizon missed the deadline to provide broadband service to these communities, the company is in violation of Resolutions T-17330 and T-17350 and may be subject to penalties, as deemed appropriate by the Commission. Despite the missed deadline, Verizon should work to provide broadband service to the communities of Crowley Lake and Swall Meadows as ordered and notify the Commission when it begins offering service. Verizon is directed to serve a copy of this letter by email to all parties who received a copy of its extension request.

Sincerely,

Paul Clanon
Executive Director

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