About 200 broadband-starved communities in California have been identified as priority areas for subsidised infrastructure builds. The list was put together by regional broadband consortia funded through the California Advanced Services Fund, which is also intended to be the source of the money to do the construction work.
Even though there’s something like $160 million available in CASF to spend on broadband upgrades, that’s not anything like enough to pay for 200 projects. Even if Internet service providers were interested in picking up their share of the cost, which is nominally something like 30% to 40% of the construction budget. But if new, so called prevailing wage rules are factored in, the private sector share could go as high as 70%.
So the California Emerging Technology Fund is going to take a whack at prioritising the priority list. CETF is convening a meeting in Redding today of mostly northern California consortia, covering 36 counties. Our consortium here on the central coast helped with mapping the under and unserved areas of the state, with color coding showing housing density. Essentially, it’s a heat map of broadband business opportunities in rural California.
Along with the underlying data, which I crunched into a series of ranking tables, it’ll be used to try to identify where the greatest need and potential is for broadband infrastructure. Then CETF plans to help raise matching funds to reduce that 30% to 70% hit, and put together a package of maybe a dozen financially feasible projects with makeable business cases to present to the California Public Utilities Commission, which runs CASF.
And that’s an important point. The CPUC decides where the money goes; CETF’s job is to try to put together good proposals that address serious needs. But that’s something anyone can do, and the maps and data are [available to anyone that wants to use them]().