Race Communications issues formal response to opponents, public comments | TheUnion.com

Race Communications issues formal response to opponents, public comments

An attorney for Race Communications says safety and health concerns over Bright Fiber's high-speed internet network are misplaced — one of several arguments made in response to complaints filed in opposition to the project.

The 14-page letter obtained by The Union, filed Thursday by Race attorney Rachelle Chong, is in response to 19 comments filed with the California Public Utilities Commission. The comments, 10 of them opposing the sale of Bright Fiber to Race, raised concerns over electromagnetic frequency, an above-ground fiber optic network and the supposed improper use of a $16.2 million grant awarded in December 2015.

The concerns raised in those comments led the utilities commission to suspend approval until November of Bright Fiber's sale. It also caused Race to respond, saying the suspension was an error because it's complying with the rules.

"Some consumers express health and safety concerns regarding whether fiber strung along poles will emit electromagnetic frequency similar to Commercial Mobile Radio Services …" Chong's letter states. "These concerns are entirely misplaced. CMRS is not the technology that fiber broadband projects use and no such wireless emissions will occur."

John Paul, CEO of Bright Fiber, touted an underground fiber optic network. A utilities commission resolution states the project would primarily rest under the earth.

However, an advice letter — which details the terms of Bright Fiber's sale — states Race's plan to primarily use "aerial delivery on existing poles in existing right-of-ways."

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According to Chong's response, the bulk of the project will remain underground — seemingly a contradiction to the advice letter.

Ally Hetland, with Race, referred questions to Chong's written response. She declined further comment.

Discussing underground/aerial, Chong writes that the resolution awarding the grant includes language about tree density, unorthodox utility pole attachments and out-of-date poles.

"These characteristics pose significant challenges that may require a hybrid underground/aerial approach," Chong's response states.

Chong calls out SmarterBroadband and ColfaxNet, which argued a change in the law should cause the utilities commission to rescind the grant or, alternatively, have Race reapply for the grant.

The response states the two companies already had their chance to petition the commission.

"Thus this is now SBB and ColfaxNet's fourth bite at the apple to try to prevent this gigabit fiber network from being built," Chong states.

Shifting to allegations of misappropriation of grant funds, Chong states that Bright Fiber has received no utilities commission funds. The grant money is distributed once matching funds are raised — some $12 million — and construction begins.

The project, which includes almost 2,000 households along Highway 174, stalled when Paul couldn't raise the private funds, a requirement of the grant. He then several months ago began negotiating the sale of Bright Fiber to Race.

Approval of the sale by the utilities commission was slated for late this month. The utilities commission has since suspended the sale until November.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

RaceComm Reply to Fiber optic purchase by The Union on Scribd