Golden State Update: Broadband Subsidies and the Future of Rural Connectivity in California — Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 421

This week on the podcast we welcome Ernesto Falcon and Steve Blum. Ernesto is Senior Legislative Council at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a powerhouse nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Steve Blum is President of Tellus Ventures Associates, which provides management and business development guidance for companies working in telecommunications. You can find him at

In this episode Christopher, Ernesto, and Steve talk about what’s going on with broadband in California. They discuss current legislation looking to make sure CA broadband subsidies result in high quality networks and don't leave people behind. Then they talk about a competing bill, and the consequences of investing public dollars in old network technology destined to leave those on the wrong side of the digital divide stranded there for another generation. Finally, they talk about the impact of campaign donations and T-Mobile merger conditions on the future of broadband in the state.

This show is 35 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

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Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.


Steve Blum: There's similar numbers when you go down the list. I mean, it's a total of $4.3 million to the people on those two committees over their careers from the sector. So it's a megabuck industry.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Welcome to episode 421 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. This is Ry Marcattilio-McCracken with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Today on the podcast, we welcome Ernesto Falcon and Steve Blum.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Ernesto is Senior Legislative Council for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a powerhouse nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in a digital world.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Steve Blum is President of Tellus Venture Associates, which provides management and business development guidance for companies working in telecommunications. You can find him at

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: In this episode, Christopher, Ernesto and Steve talk about what's going on with broadband in California, and current legislation looking to make sure California broadband subsidies result in high quality networks that don't leave people behind. They talk about a new bill crafted to stop that effort, as well as the role of campaign donations and T-Mobile merger conditions on the future of rural broadband in the state.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: A quick note: In the episode when Christopher mentions the CPUC, he's talking about the California Public Utilities Commission.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Now here's Christopher talking with Ernesto Falcon and Steve Blum.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Christopher Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Christopher Mitchell: Today I'm speaking with one of the first people to make such a rapid reappearance on a separate show, Ernesto Falcon, the Senior Legislative Counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF. Welcome back to the show Ernie.

Ernesto Falcon: Thanks for having me.

Christopher Mitchell: And we also bring in Steve Blum, the President of Tellus Venture Associates, a man who's done a lot of work chronicling what happens in California broadband on his blog. Thanks for coming on Steve.

Steve Blum: Good to be here, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: Well, I definitely appreciate it. You've had a lot of good information that I find very valuable. I should've had you on a long time ago. I'm looking forward to talking about what's been happening lately in California and trying to make some sense of it for folks.

Christopher Mitchell: I think I may start with Ernie. Let me ask you to just quickly remind us. You were on two months ago talking about this bill in California, 1130. What is happening there as a quick recap.


Ernesto Falcon: Yeah. Since last we spoke, we were heading towards initial votes at the committees that handle these questions on the California Senate. Since then, we passed that committee fairly commandingly, a bipartisan vote, and then we had a subsequent bipartisan vote on the Senate floor, and we're heading towards the other body, which is the assembly. We had a little bit of a delay, mostly driven by the Covid-19 rescheduling and some of the contention between the Senate and assembly on just general priorities of bills. We're expecting a vote later in August, and then head to the assembly shortly thereafter.

Christopher Mitchell: What does the bill do in like a minute of explanation?

Ernesto Falcon: The premise is simple. We establish and update the California access program called the California Broadband Services Fund to essentially mean one thing. If you lack one high speed access connection in California, you are eligible for state financing. And if the state were to finance a network in your backyard, it has to be a high quality, high capacity network, namely fiber.

Christopher Mitchell: Steve, let me bring you in. Actually I've neglected to note that you're a consultant as well. You don't just write about this stuff, but you're living it, you're advising people on it, and so you followed it quite closely. For someone who is not familiar with the CASF, can you just give a very brief background of it and how all of this works?

Steve Blum: The California Advanced Services Fund has been around for, oh I don't know, 12, 13, 14 years now. It's one of the universal service fund programs that California runs. It's funded by a small tax on interstate telephone calls, which is a declining source of revenue these days. But it has generated hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, which is given out mostly as grants to internet service providers to upgrade broadband service in areas that are now considered unserved. Unserved in California means you don't have access to six megabits down, one megabit up. The legislature changed that three years ago when they lowered the standard from six down and one and a half up, which sounds like a small change, but that's a generation of technology.


Steve Blum: So basically if you have 1990's grade DSL infrastructure in your neighborhood, that usually can deliver six down, one up. That means the State of California says you got everything you need.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that you've done that I just, again, I would say that I really appreciate the work that you do because if we had people like you keeping track of state politics in every state, we would be doing so much better. You had a list of all of the potential projects that are going to be getting money from CASF and it just pissed me off. Man, I was angry. Tell us about the projects that are likely to be approved in the near future.

Steve Blum: Well, there's more than $500 million in grant requests pending right now. Some of those are fibers, some of those are a hybrid fiber coax upgrades, and some of them are just box standard fixed wireless projects. That's better by the way than the last round when Frontier got millions of dollars to do marginal upgrades to its DSL plant. This time around they're proposing fiber. The projects range from essentially nearly county-wide fiber to the home deployments to just kind of spot wireless projects and a few very focused cable plant extensions. In some cases it's great stuff. In other cases it's why are we spending taxpayer money on this?

Christopher Mitchell: That's the part that gets me because I have turned into over the years, I think someone who's really upset at government wasted dollars in the sense that what is the amount that government can put forward to get the kind of investment we want, but how do we avoid putting extra? And we're talking about 100% of the costs being funded here by the CASF. And that is indefensible.

Steve Blum: We don't know yet that the PUC is going to approve 100% funding, but they did in the last round. This time around, I said, there's more than $500 million in proposals, but there's only about $140,550 million available right now. So something's going to give. What might give is a percentage they contribute. But yeah, the 100% financing was another gift from the legislature three years ago. It used to be 60 to 70% depending on circumstances. But yeah, the applicants aren't required to have any skin in the game anymore.


Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, it's a good con if you can get it. So Ernie you come forward and I think it's correct to say that you're one of the big forces on reforming the CASF. But there's a competing bill now. So tell us what this other bill does that is trying to take the wind out of your sails.

Ernesto Falcon: There's a philosophical divide that's happening that's kind of being exploited by essentially cable and AT&T and Frontier communications, which is either we invest and deploy fiber in these rural markets in these low income neighborhoods. Or we settle for kind of scraps. We settle for the lowest common denominator on the cheapest price and say job done. We got them something better than nothing. And-

Christopher Mitchell: Can I pause you there for a second.

Ernesto Falcon: Please, yeah.

Christopher Mitchell: Because that argument infuriates me because that's a recipe for just spending more money in the same spots over and over again. Because it's not like those people are going to say, you know what, I got my 15 megabits a second, I'm really happy with that, I'm going to stop asking for something more. There's always going to be a constituency as long as we have a massive imbalance between the rural and the more urban.

Ernesto Falcon: Yeah and what they exploit is a couple of things. I think the primary, the author of driving AP 570 is an assembly member, Aguiar-Curry. I think just her team don't believe that we should be spending the requisite investment, which is a high upfront dollar cost. But when you don't think about like the longterm value in that, then it seems like it's too much. And I think they just are making the conclusion of, Oh, that just seems like a pipe dream. Maybe we should just settle for what we can get. And without really I think playing out the damage that does... There's no like leveraging point from, if we get them basic service, we got them this much closer to the future.

Ernesto Falcon: No, you actually sent them back because now we just wasted all that money and we're going to have to replace all that Legacy outdated, obsolete infrastructure, and the problem never went away. You just kind of spent a diversion of funds, which if I'm the industry, that's exactly what I want. I want you, the customer to be stuck with my slow monopoly for as long as humanly possible. Because every year I can keep you paying for me because I'm the only choice in the market, is money I've saving from not upgrading and facing what happened to Frontier communications in general, which was eventually people finally got other options in their markets. And every single time someone got a slightly faster speed. They ditched this little old DSL network.


Christopher Mitchell: And I might add that at this point, there's a lot of customers that even if Frontier offer them fiber to the home and they could get a decent, less reliable, perhaps fixed wireless connection, they'll do that because they're just so sick of it. They don't want to give another dollar of their hard earned money to Frontier for the rest of their lives, if they can handle it because of the way Frontier has treated them. I talked about this previously with Doug Dawson, but Steve, I feel like your technical background can help. Is it correct to think that if we just slightly improve DSL in these rural areas that we are getting, does that then ultimately lower the cost of a permanent solution that's higher capacity in the future?

Steve Blum: No. I mean, you're not improving the basic, the underlying infrastructure. DSL in rural California is carried on copper wires that have been there for decades. Maybe in some cases, centuries. Doing marginal upgrades at what Frontier does, for example, with CASF money is they will go into a central office, upgrade the electronics there, which you need to do anyway every 10 years or so. They'll go in and upgrade the electronics, do minor work on the outside plant, and then just jam the signal down the lines. The guys next door might get a hundred down, 20 up and 10 miles out you're getting kilobit service.

Steve Blum: So it doesn't really help. What you need to do is push fiber deeper and deeper into the network. So in theory, yeah, if you were to do bonafide VDSL upgrade where you're doing fiber to the node and you're pushing fiber into neighborhoods. Yeah, that's an upgrade that leans towards future, but that's not really practical in rural areas where you don't have the population density to get dozens of houses within 400, 500 meters of a node.


Christopher Mitchell: Well, and additionally, I feel like that's an appropriate policy in a monopoly mindset where we know that we're going to give somebody to this company today. And then in five years, we're going to give them more money to that company. But that's not what we have in the United States. We don't know who's going to be most competitive for upgrading in the future. So it seems particularly foolish.

Steve Blum: If you have fiber, you don't have to worry. DSL, it's going to be constant patchwork.

Christopher Mitchell: Ernie?

Ernesto Falcon: I mean, this is the other mindset. There's philosophies of should we give them the lowest common denominator on the cheapest price and then that solves the issue or should we invest in something that's long lasting? That's one philosophy. The other thing is, who's the builder, right? And who's the who's going to deliver that future to these communities. And there are legislators and if you look a lot of these policies that exist in the telecom space, the belief of, if I just give them enough carrots, if I just give the national ISP enough benefits, enough free money, they will deliver that.

Ernesto Falcon: And because they're like the most sophisticated player in the area. And it is long past due for policymakers to just conclude, they're never building there no matter what you do. And you can favor them as much as you want. But the reality is that the future is going to come from small, private and local governments in the areas that are left behind because they're the ones that are most vested in actually delivering the future.

Christopher Mitchell: Steve, I'm curious if you have any stats in the back of your head about the last time AT&T got price relief and got to charge whatever one for the telephone services with the deregulation. Did that result in more investment in California?

Steve Blum: I haven't seen any statistics that indicate that anything that's happened at the policy level has affected AT&Ts investment strategy over the years. That's a question that goes back 30, 40 years. But just over the last 10 years, you look at where AT&T has spent money. I mean, they're doing fiber to the home in Cupertino. Which is a wonderful place to be. On the other hand, there've been a couple of studies in the last couple of years, one by the Haas Institute at Berkeley and the other by the CPUC that both have concluded that AT&T and Frontier have been systematically disinvesting in rural areas. They're focusing their investment on high potential, high ROI potential communities, neighborhoods, and just milking the investments that were made 50 years ago back when they were guaranteed a rate of return and could spend as much as they want it on infrastructure. They're just milking those investments that they paid off back before I could vote.


Christopher Mitchell: I was just speaking with a reporter before this. And I was trying to explain, because he asked me, well, does it ever make sense for a rural company to invest in these areas where you have so few people per linear mile? The way I explained it to him was to say, look, if you're AT&T you're not going to invest in Southern Illinois when you can invest in Chicago, that's the way it goes. But if you're a small company in Southern Illinois, you're not going to start building a network in Chicago, that's also the way it goes.

Christopher Mitchell: And so getting back to what Ernie was saying, I think that's the key is really focusing on entities that have the incentive that are rooted in the area that want to invest in those areas. But let me move on and ask you Steve, because you did good work on this, the sponsor of AP 570, which is trying to prevent Ernie from bringing higher quality networks to California, it seems like, I mean, we just discussed how that approach is foolish and is not cost-effective. But it seems like she is someone who has received a lot of support from the big cable and telephone companies, an amount that I found eye opening.

Steve Blum: Well, it's eye opening to anybody outside of California where there's big money in politics here. But Cecilia Aguiar-Curry has received over the course of her legislative career, $80,000 to $83,000 from the communications and electronics industry sector. 24,000 of that has come from AT&T and 12,000 of that has come from various bits of the cable industry. So she's done fairly well, not as well in that sector as the chairs of the two major legislative committees or some of the other folks on those major communications committees. The chair of the assembly communications and conveyance committee, for example, Miguel Santiago has taken $252,000 from the sector over the course of his career, Evan Low on that committee $333,000 over his career. And there's similar numbers when you go down the list, I mean, it's a total of $4.3 million to the people on those two committees over their careers from the sector. So it's a megabuck industry.


Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. I mean, when we talk about the kind of influence AT&T has in Missouri, for instance, we might be talking about tens of thousands of dollars over a period of two years to the entire party. I mean, we're talking about like 2,500 to individual folks. So you're right, California is a different scale for different reasons, but it also is I think an important piece of the explanation for why someone would put forward a bill that is just so counterproductive to what even what I think she would like to achieve in terms of high quality access throughout the state.

Steve Blum: Yeah, the money is pervasive.

Ernesto Falcon: And what it does, Chris, is it blinds legislators in a way that they're looking to do a favor for their supporter, right? In terms of the campaign side, who willfully lie, right? They will tell them these numbers and these things and these metrics get you what you need, trust us. And sometimes they don't do it directly. Sometimes they kind of do it through trusted allies of the industry who represent themselves as folks who aren't interested in closing the digital divide. And so it's a tough thing in the telecom space. I mean, we face this similar dynamic in doing net neutrality a couple of years ago where, the same dynamic, a whole bunch of their primary benefactors kind of had to be bludgeoned into voting for net neutrality at the end of the day.

Ernesto Falcon: And the fortunate thing I think this year as this debate is happening is broadband is front and central amongst so many people that the idea of voting down something that kind of expands and expands the help, right? Is crazy. And so the way they're trying to get around the legislature right now in Sacramento it's basically just lying. Basically saying, this non fiber, pro DSL, some far away cell tower bill is the solution to all these digital divide problems you're hearing from your constituents. Even going so far as, I've heard that AT&T is telling people that a 25/3 broadband standard is fiber to the home. It was a means of obfuscating the difference between a bill that actually does promote fiber and their bill where they're kind of pushing in the back, but obviously does not.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that I think the money does is it makes it less likely you're going to ask the questions. So when they come to you and say, 25/3 is all you need, or 25/3 is fiber to the home. You're not going to say, really? I'm going to push back hard on that. And that's where I think the money makes a difference. It's not a matter of, I think she would not see herself as being someone who is just trying to promote AT&T or other interests, I would hope. But I think that's where the money often is influential is that you just take those talking points as verbatim, which I don't know if I'm more frustrated with the people who don't get the money and take those talking points verbatim, or the people who at least get the money to do it.

Christopher Mitchell: But I want to-

Ernesto Falcon: I'll be honest. I don't know anyone who doesn't take the money, but believes that any of us [crosstalk 00:20:46].


Christopher Mitchell: One of the things I wanted to talk about though, is this issue of 25/3 because, Ernesto, one of the things I've seen you puzzling over is T-Mobile and the promises that they've made. And Steve, you have I think the goods on what's happening as well behind the scenes. But Ernesto, if you want to just walk us through it in order to merge with Sprint, to purchase Sprint, T-Mobile made promises in California. What did they promise?

Ernesto Falcon: So, I mean, they made a series of promises of at least in California, delivering somewhere in excess of 50 megabits per second for around 90% of the population. And then federally 99% of the population above the federal definition of broadband, which is 25/3. So, there's two schools of thought. I think I'm more skeptical whether they're actually will carry out those merger conditions. But at the same time, I have to believe that the law is the law and that's what the legal requirements are on the company in subject to the enforcer.

Ernesto Falcon: And the thing that's perplexing, right, of an idea of the state spending money to deliver 25/3 in these really tough to serve markets is that that's already supposed to be baked into the writing. And one of the primary proponents of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger in California is also a primary proponent of this bill. The California emerging technology fund. And so they actually signed an agreement with T-Mobile to carry out these promises. And in the thing that frustrates me a lot is, how do you push a bill that's doing the thing that you said is already happening based on agreements from a major private entity. Why are we having state money being spent this way? Why are we trying to raise conflict with the idea of investing fiber in these markets?


Christopher Mitchell: And so if I could just clarify what I want to make sure that people understand. Your bill 1130 would require investments in networks that are better than what T-Mobile has promised, but this other bill that some in industry are pushing pretty hard is requiring networks that are so slow that T-Mobile will already be doing it without subsidy effectively, according to what they've said.

Ernesto Falcon: That's right. And the reason why I looked into that is the Frontier bankruptcy should be educational for all people deciding policy on infrastructure. If every single person of Frontier, every of their customers saw the moment they had something faster than a slow DSL network, they just bailed. And rapid succession to such a point where it bankrupted a major telecom company. Then we should presume that state investments of a similar caliber are going to face the same type of exodus. And if there's already baked into policy that another provider is going to deliver something faster than what the state is financing, that raises serious waste questions. Because how long are those investments from the state, precious dollars are actually supposed to last? I know in our Regis building bridges to nowhere in that respect.

Christopher Mitchell: Steve, if I could paraphrase your emails and you can tell me if I'm wrong and your expression right now. I think your reaction would be nobody really expects T-Mobile to do any of that.

Steve Blum: Right. They'll build out their network to cover 90% of California's population or 99% of California's population. That's not hard to do, it already probably does. It's a question of whether or not they can deliver the speeds and capacity necessary to provide ubiquitous service at those service levels, and they can't. I've worked with T-Mobile, work with one of my clients, which is a city in the Salinas Valley. They can do spot service. They can load up the towers in a small area and provide a certain level of service in rural areas. But they're not going to be deploying their network to any greater extent than they're already doing now in rural California. California's population is roughly 95% urban, 5% rural, but the land area is the other way around.


Steve Blum: It's roughly 5% urban and 95% rural. So you start doing the math. And it's like I said, it's not hard to provide a level of mobile service to urban people in urban areas, but you're never going to have the capacity at those densities to supplant wire line communications, wire line broadband. And you're never going to have the money to build out that network to over 95% of a very big state to reach only 5% of the population. It's not going to happen. I mean, they'll be fine. I mean, I have T-Mobile service. They do a great job with mobile communications. So as AT&T and Verizon, if you're willing to reach to one of their towers, but they are not going to be supplanting fixed service.

Christopher Mitchell: One of the things that I think people get confused is the difference between a bunch of us on mobile devices, using it. And then suddenly having 50 times that demand on a regular basis from perhaps even more people, if they're using it as a home connection. The physics just don't work very well for that.

Steve Blum: No and we've seen that in the city of Gonzales where, I mean this is a project that was long in the making, but the city went out and bought T-Mobile hotspots for every household in town, along with two years of service and started handing them out in March and it's provided a great lifeline service to folks in Gonzales. It's performing better than AT&Ts aging DSL network, according to people, but it's not delivering the cable light speeds that T-Mobile promises from its network. You can't when you've got 2000 people in 2000 households. 8,000, 10,000 people in two square miles, all using the same wireless resources. They're doing a good job, but not anything like their high promises.

Christopher Mitchell: There again, I just, I always feel frustration with those kinds of solutions. I feel like a proper policy analysis should also say, when we stop spending money, do we still have anything? Do we have to start all over again? And so that's where... It's interesting and I love that cities can try different things, but if nothing else they forget they've done a value of providing a horror story of... Not necessarily a horror story, but a story of this not being the solution.


Steve Blum: Well, it depends what problem you're trying to solve.

Christopher Mitchell: Good point.

Steve Blum: Having a mobile hotspot is a lot better than nothing, particularly when the kids or the kids have to do schoolwork from home and people, to the extent they can't telecommute.

Christopher Mitchell: Right. In the short term, I agree. And that may be the best solution in the short term. I'm reminded of the town that basically decided not to do public transit and instead subsidized Uber and eventually found that that was not economically going to end well for them.

Ernesto Falcon: And it also just helps reveal to people and mayors and other folks that like our telecom policies in the state have failed. The idea that we have to resort to these emergency expensive measures today to just do some simple delivery of a basic amount information, right? Like we're not even talking about gigabit services or anything like that. We have spent an awful lot of money to have that future when we could have avoided it. And if you look at other places around the world and even in the US, I mean, Chris your organization did a great job of highlighting the North Dakota story, right?

Ernesto Falcon: They did this longterm thinking of investing in fiber 10 plus years ago. And under the Covid-19 pandemic, a super majority of their students, something around 99 plus percent, they have sufficiently high enough internet speeds to handle remote education. That's unheard of in the state California right now. Right now in California we barely think maybe even half our students have that capability. And to the extent that that has not kind of forced a reckoning of acknowledging that our infrastructure policies have completely failed our people. It is at the local level, it just hasn't really quite worked its way to Sacramento just yet.

Christopher Mitchell: So I have a question left for each of you. Steve, I wanted to ask, I think the other piece of your part, I think you've done a good job of explaining what T-Mobile will do, and also that T-Mobile's investments plan is entirely reasonable for their goals. But I also expect that the CPUC will just blindly allow T-Mobile to do whatever it does and call it a day, rather than trying to see if it's actually upholding the letter of the promise.


Steve Blum: It might be different this time. And I'm just a perpetual optimist, I guess. The history of merger conditions in California is that lots of stuff is promised, even more is ordered. And then nobody follows up to any great extent. We saw that with the front Frontiers acquisition of Verizon systems in the state. Charter's acquisition of Time Warner and Brighthouse systems. There's been a little bit of followup, but nobody's really keeping a close watch on it. This time around the CPUC has put in place a citation system and they're basically requiring T-Mobile to pay for somebody to monitor this. But T-Mobile's lawyers are going to be wrapping this up in court filings and procedures for the next 10 years, because T-Mobile has taken a position that CPUC doesn't have the authority to do any of this. And so two, three years from now, whether anybody at the CPUC is even going to remember that this happened is a good guess.

Christopher Mitchell: And that's the hopeful take.

Steve Blum: Yes. That's the optimist in me.

Christopher Mitchell: So Ernie, what is the path for 1130 coming up? I mean, it sounds like you still have the edge and that this is something that we can still hope we'll move forward. Although you have a hiccup right now, it's unrelated to your bill and just the nature of the whole legislature, but what is the path forward for you?

Ernesto Falcon: So just like every other good idea in Sacramento that faces opposition from kind of vested interests, getting the word out, mobilizing the people in terms of grassroots activism, getting people to pick up the phone and call their legislator. We don't have access to town halls or anything of that nature nowadays, right? So it's a little bit different in the kind of the direct contact way that people are used to influencing the legislator. But we've been down this road before. We got net neutrality passed not because the Sacramento legislature deemed it was a worthy goal that all of them should get on board. No, the reality was a whole ton of Californians were upset with the idea that the legislature wouldn't institute extra protection and responded. I think we are in that same dynamic now with broadband access. I think it's politically precarious to be in a position of saying less people should be given less today. And my job and the job of advocates is to make sure voters and folks know what their elected officials in response to their needs.

Ernesto Falcon: And so, it's really kind of shining a light to the kind of the inside game that's happening because once it goes public, it's always indefensible. And then suddenly every single Senator and assembly member says, Oh, well, I plan to vote this way all along. And the reality was not until everyone knew what was about to happen.

Christopher Mitchell: That's a good quick political education for how those things really happen. I remember when I was very young, I must have been eight or nine and an US rep came to my school and my dad said, you should ask him why he opposed the creation of EPA or something like that. And so I did, why did you vote against this piece of environmental legislation? And, and he said, Oh, no, I voted for it. And I went home and I told my dad you're wrong, he voted for it. And my dad was like, yeah, after he voted against it like eight times and like trying to gut it.

Christopher Mitchell: So it was all kinds of games to play. But thank you both for coming on, it's been a great conversation. I definitely hope that there is a lot of hope in California. I think the work that you are doing to bring good policy to a state that AT&T more or less previously controlled for so long that the cable telcos had so much influence in. It's just really heartening to know that we regularly have a fighting shot to get good policy across. So, thanks for that work and thanks for coming on.

Steve Blum: Good to be here.

Ernesto Falcon: Thanks for having us.

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: That was Christopher talking with Ernesto Falcon and Steve Blum. We have transcripts for this and other podcast available at Email us at, with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @communitynets. Follow stories on Twitter. The handle is @muninetworks. Subscribe to this and other podcasts from ILSR, including building local power, local energy rules, and the composting for community podcast. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter at While you're there, please take a moment to donate, your support in any amount keeps us going. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song Warm Duck Shuffle licensed through Creative Commons. This was episode 421 of the community broadband bits podcast. Thanks for listening.