The Public Utility Commission of Texas has recently adopted a Middle Mile Broadband Rule. The rule permits electric utilities to lease their excess fiber capacity to internet service providers to provide broadband in unserved and underserved areas of Texas. The rule will help electric utilities partner with internet service providers to expand broadband access to Texans. The rule contains several ratepayer, consumer, and private property owner protections. Electric utilities cannot pass any costs related to middle mile broadband service to their ratepayers. Utilities also cannot deliver internet service directly to end-use customers on a retail basis. And private property owners who’ve granted easements to electric utilities can protest the use of the easement for middle mile broadband service. The rule defines an unserved area as one or more census blocks, in which 80 percent or more of end-user addresses have no access to broadband service or lack access to reliable broadband service as determined using Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mapping criteria, if available. An underserved areas is defined as one or more census blocks that are not unserved and in which 80 percent or more of end-user addresses in each census block lack access to broadband service with a download speed not less than 100 megabits per second and an upload speed not less than 20 megabits per second or lack access to reliable broadband service with those speeds as determined using FCC mapping criteria, if available. Electric utilities that contract with internet service providers must submit implementation plans for middle mile broadband service to the PUCT for review and approval as required by the Public Utility Regulatory Act.
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