CASF consortia producing broadband projects


ESCRBC meeting in June Lake last November brought broadband supply and demand together.

Race Telecommunication’s proposal to build fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) systems in four Mono County communities shows how middle mile fiber can make last mile service possible and how the regional broadband consortia funded by the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) can bring together the right people at the right time.

Those four small systems would be built along the Digital 395 route between Reno and Barstow. Raul Alcaraz, Race’s CEO, was at the Eastern Sierra Connect Regional Broadband Consortium’s November conference in June Lake. People from some of the scattered and poorly served communities in Eastern California were also there.

The program included discussions about how to solve those connectivity problems, as well as a detailed update on the Digital 395 project. It was a potent mix that produced results.

“It all started from the November meeting,” Alcaraz said. “The consortium has been a great help for support and information. We would not have been able to get the [CASF application] together without them.”

Same results from Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties, where the Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) has been an ongoing forum for independent Internet service providers and major local institutions. The latest round of CASF applications included a major middle mile project initiated by U.C. Santa Cruz and submitted by Sunesys, and three related last mile fiber builds, proposed by Surfnet Communications.

Other consortia have similar success stories to tell. Bringing together consumer and institutional demand, community support and willing investors, local and otherwise, generates broadband infrastructure projects that benefit an entire region. That was the primary goal of the CASF regional broadband consortia program. It seems to be working.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, and works, to one degree or another, with the CPUC’s regional consortia, including ESCRBC and CCBC. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.