Frontier reiterates StarTouch’s CAF-II challenge is not credible, asks FCC for more time on speed tests

Rural broadband
Frontier is rebutting StarTouch’s claims that the telco’s requests for additional CAF-II funding in Washington state are in census blocks the wireless ISP currently serves.

Frontier maintains that StarTouch’s claims that the telco’s requests for additional CAF-II funding in Washington state are in census blocks the wireless ISP (WISP) currently serves “are not credible."

The telco asked the FCC to act in an “expeditious manner” to examine Frontier’s response to StarTouch's claims.

“Frontier notes that despite StarTouch’s claims to serve almost the entire State of Washington, 51 of Frontier’s census blocks do not appear on StarTouch’s most recent publicly available Form 477,” Frontier said. “Frontier has attached a list of these 51 census blocks, and Frontier requests authorization to serve these census blocks because StarTouch’s own Form 477 data is not consistent with its claims of serving all 429 census blocks.”

StarTouch outlined in its Form 477 report to the FCC that it offers service to 141,180 census blocks, which represent 75% of the 183,957 census blocks in Washington.

RELATED: Frontier’s supplemental CAF-II funding request faces protests from Comcast, Charter

In October, StarTouch said in a filing (PDF) that it already provides broadband speeds that exceed the 3 Mpbs/768 Kbps requirements in Frontier’s targeted census blocks in Washington.

Today, StarTouch provides 8 Mbps to 20 Mbps broadband services to residential customers in 19 Washington counties.

The WISP also provides higher speed business services that range from 2 Mbps to 6 Gbps as well as wholesale IP transit services via its microwave network to other area service providers.

Even in areas where StarTouch has not currently installed service yet, the WISP said that wireless microwave broadband is equally accessible to remote and densely populated areas. After making contact with a potential customer, StarTouch would make a site evaluation and installation would be similar to a satellite TV service.

“StarTouch Broadband Services supports its assertion by verifying its present infrastructure (tower locations, mid-points/repeater sites, POP locations), customers presently serviced within those Census Blocks, and customers and locations that have the potential to be serviced if contracted by a customer,” StarTouch said in its filing.

Frontier countered that when it conducted an investigation on StarTouch’s service availability in seven random census blocks, the WISP said it could not serve four of them while indicating two sites would require a site survey.

“During these inquiries, the StarTouch representative explained that he was evaluating the potential for service based on Google Maps, and if there were too many trees, if there were hills, or if the location was too far from StarTouch facilities, StarTouch was not able to serve the area,” Frontier said. “Apparently, that was the case for at least four and up to six of seven randomly selected locations.”

This is not the first time Frontier has faced a challenge from another service provider about a CAF-II supplemental request.

Charter and Comcast are also challenging Frontier’s requests in various other markets.

Charter, which entered into a number of new markets to compete with Frontier and others via its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Communications, said in a response filing (PDF) that it already offers internet speeds that exceed 3 Mbps/768 Kbps in 126 of the census blocks designated by Frontier.

Likewise, Comcast said that in 19 of the census blocks Frontier had identified, it “already provides broadband service at speeds exceeding 3 Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream as of June 2016.”

In August, Frontier submitted a list of 3,146 census blocks that it had not previously identified with its initial election. It now intends to serve those locations using Phase I incremental support.

As it rolls out service in the areas where it has secured CAF-II funding, Frontier has asked the FCC for more time to develop a speed-testing framework.

The telco said that developing a speed-testing framework is a large undertaking that will require preparing a speed-testing protocol, including research, design, procurement, and approvals.

“Frontier asked that the Commission provide at least nine months of lead time from the time final rules are adopted before speed testing measurements are required,” Frontier said in its latest filing (PDF).