Response to TDS Broadband Grant Appeal: Crawford
Last month, the Broadband Deployment Board ("Board") awarded a $2.3 million broadband grant to DMEA for the Southeast Crawford and Northeast Delta areas in Application No. 2018-05. TDS now appeals the Board's award of grant money for the Southeast Crawford area because it allegedly "overbuilds" TDS's broadband network.
The Board's decision on TDS's appeal will have tremendous consequences for the citizens of Southeast Crawford: if the Board denies the TDS appeal and upholds the award to DMEA, it means that every household in the grant area will, within a year, have access to symmetrical 1,000 Mbps/1,000 Mbps broadband service. But if the Board grants TDS's appeal and rescinds DMEA's award, it means hundreds of rural Coloradans in Southeast Crawford will remain served with little more than unmet promises of broadband service from TDS.
TDS claims the Board's grant "overbuilds" TDS, because TDS plans to use federal broadband money that was earmarked for a different geographic region to "directly benefit" citizens in Southeast Crawford. This claim is meritless as both a legal and practical matter. TDS also claims it provides—and will provide in the future—broadband service to those same citizens. But as demonstrated by more than two dozen reports from actual TDS customers in Southeast Crawford, this claim also lacks merit. TDS claims that it currently provides service levels to Southeast Crawford that it does not actually provide; there is no reason for the Board to accept TDS's claims about its future performance.
By way of summary, there are several independent reasons this Board should reject TDS's appeal of the grant to DMEA in Application No. 2018-05:
1. DMEA's project does not "overbuild" any TDS location receiving A-CAM funding.
DMEA's application explicitly excluded any addresses receiving A-CAM funding. DMEA engaged a separate independent consultant as part of the appeal process, and that consultant confirmed that no service areas in Application No. 2018-05 overlap with TDS's A-CAM funded areas.
As detailed below, TDS admits that it has not received federal funding for addresses in the DMEA grant areas, but for entirely different areas. Its unsubstantiated attempt to assert that citizens in Southeast Crawford will meaningfully benefit from federal funding going to a different geographic region should be rejected: DMEA's project does not "overbuild" areas receiving federal funding within the plain meaning of C.R.S § 40-15-509.5(10.9)(b). Moreover, there is no statutory or Board policy prohibition on the build out of a new project in an area that is adjacent to an area receiving federal funds.
2. The TDS officer affidavit has no bearing on the Board's ultimate determination that DMEA's application meets the minimum requirements.
TDS's officer affidavit fails both facial and substantive statutory requirements for such affidavits. It refers only generally to several pages of TDS comments and does not state, as required by C.R.S § 40-15-509.5(8)(c), that construction of a broadband network in grant areas receiving federal funding will be complete within the 24-month period.
3. By TDS's own admission, it does not provide broadband service to a majority of the unserved areas.
TDS admits that at least 341 of the 388 households in the grant areas (approximately 88%) receive less than the 25 Mbps/3 Mbps speeds required for broadband service.
4. In any event, TDS's reported available speeds are hypothetical, unreliable and unverifiable; TDS's own customers cast serious doubt on its assertions about the service levels it provides now and will provide in the future.
Testimonials from actual TDS customers in the grant areas reveal that, contrary to what TDS claims, many addresses do not receive "available" speeds of at least 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. Attached to this response are multiple reports from TDS customers directly contradicting the speeds TDS claimed in its December 20, 2018 comments it was providing those specific customers. TDS's claims about the service it currently provides—and could provide in the future—merit serious scrutiny. For example:
- TDS claimed in an attachment to its December 20, 2018 comments that its customer Roberta Odle receives download speeds of 50.01 Mbps. As Ms. Odle details in the attached letter, TDS purports to provide her with a 25 Mbps package, but it "runs frustratingly slower than that." This leads to educational difficulties for children in her home and for Ms. Odle as an educator. Ms. Odle indicates she would switch providers "in a heartbeat," which "no doubt TDS is well aware of since none of their customers in our area are happy with the cost and the speed we have been forced to accept thus far." (See Attachment A.)
- TDS claimed in its December 20, 2018 comments that TDS customers Richard and Susan Hanson receive a download speed of 25.6 Mbps. As detailed in the attached letter (including speed test screenshot), they only receive a download speed of 9.08 Mbps and a 0.78 Mbps upload speed. This is only a small fraction of what TDS claims they receive. They indicate that TDS slowness and inconsistent service are problems that seriously impact their ability to conduct their ranching business. (See Attachment B.)
- TDS also claimed its customers Ray and Peggy Wardlaw receive download speeds of 25.6 Mbps. As detailed in the attached letter, they are paying more than $50.00 per month to receive 3.45 Mbps/0.96 Mbps speed. They would "welcome the chance . . . to choose between Elevate and TDS" for internet service. (See Attachment C.)
- 25 total Southeast Crawford testimonials, plus CrowdFiber speed tests contained in Attachment D directly refute TDS's claims of service to the Application No. 2018-05 grant area. TDS's representations about current service—much less future service—are not credible.
5. The grant area is unserved and DMEA's subsidiary, Elevate, does not provide broadband service to those unserved areas.
TDS's appeal arguing that Elevate already offers gigabit internet to the entire grant area relied on mapping data that did not accurately reflect available services. OIT has since amended its map to accurately reflect that Elevate does not currently offer internet service within this grant area.
6. TDS's procedural arguments are not a valid basis for appeal.