A regulatory framework for broadband over power lines aimed at increasing competition and decreasing the cost of Internet access was adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission on a 4-1 vote April 27. "We want California to be a leader in broadband in the nation," said CPUC member Rachelle Chong. She touted the decision as setting "a clear 'light touch' regulatory framework" that removes market obstacles and uncertainty, as well as a plan that anticipates the future. The dissenting commissioner, Geoffrey Brown, whose alternate decision failed, warned, "We are giving away an asset in perpetuity." He said that the adopted ground rules created an uneven playing field, giving a big advantage to electric utilities. Brown noted that he had the same goals as Chong, which were to speed the deployment of broadband and allow third parties and utility affiliates to offer broadband services. However, he said her decision to spur a robust market in Internet service over electricity lines is wrongly focused on short-term goals. Chong admitted that broadband over power lines is a nascent technology. However, she said her framework opens the way for increased broadband access to underserved and rural communities because far more Californians' homes are connected to electric wires than to cable modems or DSL for Internet access. In spite of concerns that utility ratepayer money could be used to "cross-subsidize" broadband service, she did not require utility-affiliate deals to comply with utility affiliate transaction rules. Her decision found that those rules "were established to address a much broader range of concerns." Commissioner John Bohn said he supported the decision because it includes a provision that allows the CPUC to assess why lines reserved for broadband service are not built out within seven years. "If its smells like anticompetitive behavior, our role is to take the space back," he said. Another broadband benefit is said to be its ability to use "smart grid" technology to improve grid reliability, be it for detection of outages or for voltage control. However, PG&E is rolling out an advanced-meter installation program that will provide many of those services. PG&E's metering is a separate technology - one that does not interact with broadband over power lines. Chong's ruling also: ? Requires companies that install broadband to pay utilities a pole attachment fee. ? Allows a 50\/50 split of after-tax profits with shareholders as an incentive for deployment backing, as urged by PG&E. Edison proposed a 70\/30 split and the Division of Ratepayer Advocates a 10\/90 allocation of broadband net revenue. ? Does not allow use of ratepayer funds for broadband "base investment" if used for commercial purposes. However, it there are energy benefits, ratepayer funds can be tapped. Brown's failed proposal would have required utility affiliates that enter into the broadband business to comply with the energy utility affiliate transaction rules (Circuit, March 24, 2006). The Division of Ratepayer Advocates, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison urged the application of affiliate rules. San Diego Gas & Electric, which initiated a broadband pilot project, pushed against affiliate restrictions. Chong characterized his alternate as "a more intrusive regulatory approach."