Tag Archives: regional consortia

More California regional broadband consortia funded

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Three regional broadband consortia were approved for funding by the California Public Utilities Commission this week. That brings the total to nine, with three more queued up for next month’s meeting. Here’s how it lines up…

Approved on 10 November 2016:

  • Gold Country Broadband Consortium, $300,000 over two years. Covers Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado and a part of Alpine counties, except for the Tahoe Basin area, which [has its own, separate consortium](). Focus is on finding opportunities for new broadband projects. The Sierra Business Council will take over operation of the consortium from the Sierra Economic Development Corporation.
  • Inland Empire Regional Broadband Consortium, also $300,000 over two years. Represents Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Will concentrate on technology and policy development.
  • Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium, $298,750 over two years. Takes in Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties. Work plan includes developing broadband infrastructure projects and increasing the availability, affordability and use of Internet services.

Approved on 27 October 2016:

  • Inyo Mono Broadband Consortium, $105,216 over two years for Inyo and Mono counties. Data-driven infrastructure development program, focused on leveraging the Digital 395 fiber backbone.
  • Redwood Coast Connect Broadband Consortium, $208,000 over two years in Del Norte, Humboldt, and Trinity counties. Plans to work on infrastructure deployment, particularly along the State Route 299 corridor and the Klamath River.
  • San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium, $180,000 over three years. Serves Fresno, western Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties. Activities mostly involve promoting broadband use.

You can read more about these consortia here.

Approved on 18 August 2016:

  • Central Coast Broadband Consortium, $264,500 over five years. Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties.
  • East Bay Broadband Consortium, $272,160 over three years. Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano counties.
  • Tahoe Basin Project, $200,000 over two years. Focus is on the Tahoe Basin portions of Placer and Eldorado counties, but since broadband has to come from somewhere other than the middle of the lake, passing consideration is also given to the late, great County of Pautah.

More detail about what these three consortia plan to do is here.

Scheduled for consideration on 1 December 2016:

  • North Bay/ North Coast Broadband Consortium ($250,000, two years), Marin, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties.
  • Central Sierra Connect Broadband Consortium ($249,000, two years), Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador and western Alpine counties.
  • Los Angeles County Regional Broadband Consortium ($600,000, two years). Represents most of Los Angeles County, via four sub-regions – Central /West Los Angeles, Gateway Cities, San Fernando Valley and South Bay.

A total of 15 groups originally applied for regional broadband consortia grants from the California Advanced Services Fund earlier this year. Programs in northeastern California (a combination of two previous consortia), eastern Kern County and the southern Central Coast region (San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties) are still under review.

Tellus Venture Associates has worked with many of these consortia, in one capacity or another. I’m not a disinterested commentator, take it for what it’s worth.

Broadband projects queued up for Monterey startups

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Independent projects are driving broadband infrastructure upgrades on California’s central coast. Maybe not as universally or as quickly as local entrepreneurs would like, but it’s happening. That was my message on Tuesday evening to the the Startup Monterey Bay Tech Meetup in Seaside.

I was asked to give an update on broadband development in the region. Those efforts center on the Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC), an ad hoc group of local companies, agencies and other organisations in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties that essentially have one thing in common: an interest in getting better, cheaper and more reliable broadband service in the region. Some of the work it does – primarily analytical and policy work – is funded by a broadband consortia grant from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Most of the region has substandard broadband service, earning a “D” grade or worse on a scale developed for the East Bay Broadband Consortium. More affluent and/or urbanised areas rate average, “C” grades, but in poorer and/or rural areas, consumers and businesses alike often struggle to get service that meets the CPUC’s minimum standard for Internet access: 6 Mbps up and 1.5 Mbps down.

The good news is that change is coming. A 91-mile open access fiber route between Santa Cruz and Soledad is nearing completion. Built and operated by Sunesys, funded by the CPUC and spearheaded by U.C. Santa Cruz, that line will provide low cost, high capacity backhaul to broadband projects along the entire route: municipal systems in Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Salinas, an FTTH system in north Monterey County and, it seems likely, Charter Communications’ CPUC-mandated digital upgrade of redlined, analog-only communities in the Salinas Valley.

Broadband by itself will not produce new ventures or jobs. It’s up to the region’s entrepreneurs, like those who were at Tuesday’s Monterey Bay tech meetup, to build companies on top of that basic infrastructure. But at least there’s now a fighting chance that it’ll be there for them when they need it.

North coast, eastern Sierra and San Joaquin regions up for California broadband consortia grants

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That’s pretty much the speed of broadband too, in these regions.

Three more regional broadband consortia projects trickled onto the California Public Utilities Commission’s agenda for next month. A draft resolution that, if approved, would give a total of $493,000 from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to broadband consortia on the northern coast, the eastern Sierra and the San Joaquin Valley regions.

The Redwood Coast Connect Broadband Consortium, based at Humboldt State University, and the San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium, based at Fresno State, are up for their second round of financing – each received $450,000 grants in the first round, which started in 2011.

The San Joaquin consortium would get $180,000 for a three year program that’ll focus on digital literacy classes and broadband marketing efforts aimed at signing up 300 new Internet subscribers annually. The project will also work on improving connectivity and deployment of new technology in the health care and agricultural industries in the San Joaquin Valley. The region includes San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties, and the western half of Kern County.

Three counties – Del Norte, Humboldt and Trinity – comprise the Redwood Coast region, and the focus there is on infrastructure deployment. Assuming the $208,000 grant is approved, the consortium will have two years of funding to work on the Digital 299 middle mile project, currently under review for a $51 million CASF infrastructure grant, as well as projects along U.S. 101between Eureka and Crescent City and in the Klamath River area. The consortium also plans to bird dog AT&T’s planned – or at least promised – infrastructure upgrades.

The third group, the Inyo Mono Broadband Consortium, plans to produce maps, databases and other information that can be used by service providers to improve broadband access, and specifically to make greater use of the open access Digital 395 middle mile fiber route that runs the length of the region. They’re up for a $105,000, two year grant. In the last round of CASF consortia grants, Inyo and Mono counties were included in the Eastern Sierra consortium with eastern Kern County; this time around the group split into two consortia.

The consortia grant proposal for eastern Kern County is still in the hopper along with eight other pending applications. A total of 15 consortia grant proposals were submitted in January. Three others were approved last month. Assuming commissioners approve these latest three grants, that’ll mean it’s taken nine months to process six grants, with no firm time table for the remaining nine. By contrast, the CPUC was able to process 14 consortia proposals – asking for twice the money – in less than six months during the 2011 round.

Draft resolution for Redwood Coast, San Joaquin and Inyo Mono consortia grants, posted 21 September 2016

Update: the CPUC has posted a revised version of the draft resolution, you can see it here.

California broadband consortia inch forward

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Urgency means different things to different people.

Three regional broadband consortia have a tentative okay for operating money from the California Advanced Services Fund. The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on grants for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, the East Bay Broadband Consortium and the Tahoe Basin Project at its 18 August 2016 meeting (assuming an email error on Tuesday by the CPUC doesn’t delay it). Commissioners will be considering a draft resolution released on Tuesday that, if adopted, will approve the awards.

CCBC has been working on broadband development in San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties for more than 20 years. It received its first CASF consortia grant in 2011. That money paid for development of an online broadband development tool and policy initiatives, which in turn supported 20 infrastructure project proposals, about half of which were approved and are either completed or in progress. The new grant – $264,500 – would continue that work.

The proposal submitted by EBBC – for $272,160 – focuses on low cost and free computers, digital literacy programs and other efforts to increase broadband use, particularly in low income communities. The Tahoe consortium is also being recommended for its full grant request of $200,000 to continue working on last mile broadband projects – it has two in the hopper so far – and to clear the way for more mobile infrastructure and middle mile fiber construction.

The draft resolution is certainly welcome, not least by the consortia involved, but it still leaves a dozen grant proposals from consortia up and down California on hold. Assuming the commission makes a decision in August, it’ll be more than six months since the applications were filed, and a year and a day since a bill authorising the money – carried by assemblyman Jim Wood (D – Healdsburg) – was unanimously approved by lawmakers.

With special status as urgency legislation. It’s time to take the California legislature at its word.

I’m the project lead for CCBC, and EBBC and the Tahoe project are my clients. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Quite the contrary. Take it for what it’s worth.

Community WiFi project fades away in LA

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On the shelf.

A community-based WiFi access initiative that I wrote about three years ago has hit some rough waters, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. Manchester Community Technologies embarked on a project to get local businesses in economically depressed areas to share Internet connections and power a WiFi network managed by Manchester. Initially, they were serving 1,500 people a month, and running on a grant from the California Public Utilities Commission. But initial burst of volunteer enthusiasm faded along with the funding.

According to the Times, the project wasn’t sustainable

But today, most of those networks and hot spots don’t link to the Internet.

In an initial survey late last year, The Times checked seven parks and 11 network locations, finding no Wi-Fi at any of them. A follow-up survey in March found network signals at three of the eight parks and 16 community locations but could not obtain a connection on any of them. The best results were on a section of Crenshaw Boulevard in Leimert Park where several businesses were broadcasting free Wi-Fi on a community network.

The money – about $500,000 according to the Times – came from the California Advanced Services Fund, via a regional broadband consortia grant. Pushing free WiFi out into low income communities is a nice idea, but without permanent subsidies from someone, it’s not going to last.

It’s easy to call Manchester’s project a failure – because, evidently, it did fail – but if lessons were learned, documented and published, then it would also be a successful experiment. The freedom to fail is what gives Silicon Valley its entrepreneurial energy. It’s not the failures who suffer in the long run, it’s those who do not learn from the experience.

California broadband consortia try for second round of grants

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Funding for the regional broadband consortia that the California Public Utilities Commission approved four years ago has either expired or soon will. For most, that’ll mean a gap in funding while proposals for new consortia grants are processed. A total of fifteen applications were filed by last month’s deadline.

The San Diego consortium did not reapply, but it’s been inactive for some time. The One Million New Internet Users consortium in Los Angeles County didn’t come back either, which is no surprise given the way it was ripped by a state audit. The Eastern Sierra consortium split, with one group asking for funding for Inyo and Mono counties and the other for eastern Kern County. The Northeastern and Upstate consortia have combined into one. Otherwise, the new line-up looks a lot like the old one…

  • Central Coast Broadband Consortium – Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito Counties
  • Central Sierra Connect Consortium – Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Western Alpine Counties
  • Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium – Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba Counties
  • East Bay Broadband Consortium – Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano Counties
  • Eastern Sierra Connect Consortium – Eastern Kern County
  • Inyo-Mono Broadband Consortium – Mono, Inyo Counties
  • Gold Country Broadband Consortium – Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, Eastern Alpine Counties
  • Inland Empire Broadband Consortium – San Bernadino, Riverside Counties
  • Los Angeles County Regional Broadband Consortium – Five sub-regions of Los Angeles County
  • North Bay/North Coast Regional Broadband Consortium – Mendocino, Marin, Napa, Sonoma Counties
  • North State Regional Broadband Consortium – Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama Counties
  • Pacific Coast Regional Broadband Consortium – San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura Counties
  • Redwood Coast Connect Consortium – Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity Counties
  • San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium – San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Western Kern Counties
  • Tahoe Consortium – Lake Tahoe Basin

This new round of consortia grants was approved by the legislature last year and, like the last one, will be paid for via the California Advanced Services Fund.

California legislature approves an extra $5 million for broadband consortia

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Regional broadband consortia will be getting another $5 million from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), assuming governor Jerry Brown agrees. The state senate unanimously approved a bill yesterday that adds the money to the $10 million already allocated and largely spent by the 17 consortia that cover all but a handful of California’s 58 counties (h/t to Gladys Palpallatoc at CETF for the heads up).

The California Public Utilities Commission starting approving consortia in 2011, after the program was established by the legislature in 2010. Different regions have different needs, with some, particularly in rural areas, focusing on developing broadband infrastructure and other, mostly in urban areas, pushing for greater broadband adoption.

Some consortia, such as the Central Coast and Redwood Coast groups, can trace their lineage back a decade or more. Many more were developed by the California Emerging Technology Fund as part of its mission to expand broadband availability and usage throughout the state. Others came in being once the money was available.

Most of the projects proposed over the past several years for infrastructure construction grants from CASF were helped along the way by consortia. A lot of ground breaking analytical and mapping work was also done.

The $5 million is coming out of the CASF broadband infrastructure loan fund. Originally set at $15 million, it’s been tapped once already – also to the tune of $5 million – to fund broadband programs and facilities for public housing. With the governor’s signature, it’ll be down to $5 million.

But only three CASF loans, totalling $127,000, have been approved, versus dozens of infrastructure grants. Not surprising: money you don’t have to pay back is more attractive than money you do. Even so, it could become more popular in the near future since the CASF grant account could be running dry in a few months, while the loan program is intended to live on as a revolving fund.

We’re deciding the future of broadband now

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I was asked to moderate a panel on the future of broadband at the Eastern Sierra Connect Regional Broadband Consortium conference in Ridgecrest in January. You can download the presentation here. To set it up, I put three discussion points on the table:

The future will look a lot like the past, because conduit is forever.

If you drive around southern England, or many parts of Europe, you’ll realise that twenty-first century transportation patterns were, to an amazing degree, determined two thousand years ago by Roman civil engineers. Conduit construction runs by the same, unchanging rules. Future broadband deployment will be governed by decisions that have already been made, or are about to be made. We have to get it right the first time.

The future will look a lot like the present, only more of it.

As we move from 4G to 5G mobile networks over the next ten years, the number of access points and cell sites will grow exponentially. That’s just one example. A bewildering array of personal devices, industrial processes and remote monitoring and control applications are already here and multiplying fast.

The future will look like something you’ve never seen, and that’s just the near future

Ericsson’s prediction of 50 billion connected mobile devices by 2020 is looking more and more pedestrian. And 50 billion devices in five years might turn into a trillion in 10 or 20 years. Wired and ad hoc wireless networks will support even more. That flood of data will be collected, correlated and turned around, to be used to manage our world, our lives and even our individual selves. The consequences are unknowable.

2015 a broadband breakout year for California’s central coast

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Santa Cruz Tech Beat, for which I sometimes write, published its picks for top stories of 2014. It’s a good list and takes a holistic view of the local tech scene and economy. Looking ahead, I think the ground work that was done this year will drive next year’s success. So, my predictions for the top local broadband stories of 2015 are…

3 – Sunesys fiber line breaks ground
The $10.6 million grant from the California Public Utilities Commission was justified by the benefit delivered to the Salinas Valley — which is substantial, real and sufficient grounds for spending the money. But the most immediate benefit – maybe as soon as 2015 – is likely to be felt in Santa Cruz County, along the Soquel Drive corridor. Surfnet has approval for two Monterey County projects. Cruzio has publicly discussed its intention to use the Sunesys fiber to bring fast Internet to businesses and institutions along the way. The fiber will help light up Watsonville’s muni fiber too – see below. Huge credit goes to Brad Smith and Jim Warner at U.C. Santa Cruz. They had a lot of help from the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, but bottom line, they’re the guys that got it done.

2 – Santa Cruz County broadband policy initiative becomes reality.
Locally, 2014 has been a year more of delay than progress for the effort to rewrite Santa Cruz County’s broadband infrastructure development policies. But that’s often the way new public policy initiatives go – the first to go down a road tread carefull. The good news is there’s an increasingly long line of other agencies, here on the central coast, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in California, that are falling in behind, happy to let Santa Cruz County walk point but ready to jump in when the time is right.

Add in the fact that several projects are in the pipeline for 2015 and should also get a boost from the new rules, and the impact will be stunning.

1 – The local tech economy booms.
The emphasis by local governments on cutting red tape for companies and broadband projects alike, combined with fiber backbone projects in Watsonville and Hollister, the existing Suneys line between Santa Cruz and Santa Clara, and the extension to Soledad mentioned above, will stoke the already hot technology scene. Looker’s expansion in downtown Santa Cruz, the mysterious Magic Leap virtual reality project there as well and the beginnings of a tech youth movement in Watsonville are just three examples.

Tech development goes where broadband flows, and broadband is flooding into the central coast. That’ll drive the news in 2015.

Then there’s the unpredictable: the best things tomorrow almost certainly will be things we have no way of knowing about today.

Happy New Year!

Digital 395 fiber draws a last mile crowd in eastern California

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Faster residential and business broadband service – including gigabit-class fiber-to-the-home service in some communities – is following in the wake of the Digital 395 project, an open access middle mile fiber link from Reno down through eastern California to Barstow. The California Public Utilities Commission just approved a $4.7 million grant proposed by Race Telecommunications to build FTTH systems in four small Mono County communities using the Digital 395 backbone.

The areas around Aspen Springs, Chalfant, Crowley Lake and Sunny Slopes should see upgraded service in the next couple of years. Race is committing to offering residential service at set rates for at least 2 years, starting at $25 per month for 25 Mbps down and 15 Mbps up and ranging to $150 per month for 1 Gbps down and 100 Mbps up. The commercial rate card is higher – $60 for 25/15 and $200 for 100/50 – but the same, the resolution says, as what Race charges at the Mojave Spaceport, another CASF-funded project.

Two other project proposals, also leveraging Digital 395 connectivity, had been been submitted by Schat Communications, an Internet service provider based in Bishop, but were ultimately turned down by the commission. Schat asked for a combination of grants and loans from the California Advanced Services Fund totalling $3.8 million to build a WiMAX network, with fiber links to Digital 395, over a wider area of Mono and Inyo Counties, including the areas sought by Race.

Last year, the CPUC awarded CASF grants to Race for FTTH projects in Boron and the Tehachapi area. Two other proposals, for California City and Mojave, were pulled after Charter Communications upgraded its network in those communities.

The Race projects aren’t the first to take advantage of Digital 395. The bandwidth delivered by that system was quickly leveraged by SuddenLink last year, when it boosted speeds – up to ten-times – for existing customers in Mammoth Lakes at no extra charge.