Louisiana rejects Sparklight protest of Conexon's broadband grantLouisiana rejects Sparklight protest of Conexon's broadband grant
'Sparklight has not satisfied its burden of proof to establish that it provides reliable service to the applied-for areas,' said Veneeth Iyengar, executive director of Louisiana's broadband office.
October 6, 2022
Louisiana officials have rejected a protest from Cable One's Sparklight which aimed to stop the state from awarding a $4 million grant to Conexon to build fiber broadband to 851 locations in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana.
Conexon was one of several service providers to receive broadband infrastructure grants through Louisiana's Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO) program in July as part of a $130 million funding round. But the company was prevented from starting work when one of the state's incumbent providers, Cable One, brought a protest saying it already provided service to the area.
That action was met with outrage from the local community, including the group Delta Interfaith which had worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to bring high-speed Internet to the area and chose Conexon as a partner. The group even went door-to-door to collect speed test data to prove its residents were not getting advertised speeds by the available incumbent providers, nor could many afford to subscribe to their services.
In a letter rejecting the protest, published by Community Networks, Veneeth Iyengar, executive director of Louisiana's broadband office, said Sparklight provided little evidence to support its argument.
"Sparklight has implied in its protest that it is able to provide broadband speeds exceeding the statutory threshold of 25:3 [25 Mbit/s downstream by 3 Mbit/s upstream] to 2,856 locations within the area that Conexon has applied for funding. However, Sparklight must establish through supporting documentation that it already adequately serves the areas at issue," said Iyengar. "Sparklight has not satisfied its burden of proof to establish that it provides reliable service to the applied-for areas."
According to Iyengar, Sparklight provided a "paucity of information" to support its claims that it reliably provides adequate speeds for residents of the region.
While Sparklight submitted data "outlining the speed subscribed to at certain subscriber locations, as well as the potential available speeds at certain locations," it did not provide information regarding "what speeds are actually received at certain locations within the area," he said.
"Additionally, while Sparklight claims node speeds of 950/50 within its spreadsheet, there are no supporting speed tests to substantiate these claims," said Iyengar.
Dig at DOCSIS
Notably, Iyengar also references Conexon's argument that its full-fiber network is superior to Sparklight's, which is upgrading its cable network using DOCSIS technology.
"Conexon asserts that Sparklight utilizes a DOCSIS technology type, and that such technology has inherent limitations, particularly with regard to the upload portion of the network. Conexon's argument has been corroborated by OBC's third party consultants," said Iyengar. "While the speeds available to the Node on the fiber have been reported to be very high, the speeds to the customer over the coaxial cable may be limited."
In a press release, local advocacy group Delta Interfaith said it was "cautiously celebrating" the news, as Sparklight is allowed 15 days to appeal the decision. Cable One/Sparklight did not respond to Light Reading's request for comment on a potential appeal as of this writing.
Related posts:Sparklight 'persisting' with grant challenge to Conexon in LouisianaNTIA receives $5.5B in grant requests for $1B middle mile fundThe Divide: How a co-op is solving 'the broadband problem' in rural Georgia— Nicole Ferraro, editor, Light Reading, and host of "The Divide" podcast.
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