$170 million in California broadband subsidy proposals await decisions

9 January 2014 by Steve Blum
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The latest update from the California Public Utilities Commission shows that 12 projects are still in the hunt for subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). Eleven projects, totalling $30 million in grants and $41,000 in loans, have been approved. Nine have either been rejected by commission staff or are on hold.

One of the pending projects – a $1 million DSL upgrade proposed by Ponderosa Telephone Company in Fresno County – is due for a vote by the commission next week. The other 11 nominally total out to be $170 million in grants and $1.5 million in loans. The Golden Bear middle mile project in far northern California accounts for most of it – $119 million – and appears to be on very shaky ground. If you set it aside, there’s ample money in CASF to fund the remainder, if all were to qualify.

Three fiber-to-the-home projects – Race Communications in Mojave and California City, and Surfnet in the Santa Cruz mountains – were killed or stalled because incumbent cable companies had enough warning to upgrade their systems, making the areas involved ineligible for funding. Two applications submitted by Etheric Networks were incomplete and one from Cal.net was for information only. No reason was given for rejecting the other three.

All of these projects were submitted to the commission nearly a year ago, on 1 February 2013. Telephone and cable companies were given an opportunity to challenge the proposals, on the basis that they were providing service of at least 6 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up in the areas involved. It’s taken all this time to sift through those claims and review the business plans and technical details of the surviving applications. Final decisions for some could be months away.