$23 million in California subsidies for six broadband infrastructure projects ready for CPUC vote

17 November 2020 by Steve Blum
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Fiber patch panel sab photo 625

Six broadband infrastructure projects asking for $23 million in grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) are queued up and ready to go at the California Public Utilities Commission. Assuming all six are blessed by commissioners, that’ll leave $172 million, by my estimate, in the CASF broadband infrastructure grant account. The 48 remaining grant requests total $374 million.

A breakdown of the remaining CASF infrastructure budget and pending projects is here. I’ll update those tables as things change.

A proposed California supplement – “kicker”, as it’s called – to the federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) subsidy program could, in theory, take as much as $146 million from CASF, but the actual outlay is likely to be a tiny fraction of that. The RDOF kicker program isn’t approved yet, and if it is the draft rules might radically change. But the working assumption is that the 48 pending projects seeking CASF broadband infrastructure grants will have first dibs on whatever money is available.

On the other hand, decisions on those grant applications might wait until 31 March 2021. The CPUC won’t make a final decision on whether and how to offer the RDOF kicker until January, perhaps around the same time that the Federal Communications Commission announces the winners of its reverse auction for its subsidies.

Five of the lucky CASF projects that move ahead now do not include any areas that are eligible for RDOF money.

A sixth project, located on tribal land in Humboldt County, includes RDOF territory. The draft resolution for Hunter Communications’ Hoopa Valley Broadband Initiative project cites “the historical lack of federal broadband money going to tribal areas” as the reason for making an exception to the notional wait until the dust clears rule.

The six projects and grant requests are: