CPUC considers filling Silicon Valley broadband gap

by Steve Blum • , , ,

A $1.1 million subsidy for a trimmed back fiber to the home project in Paradise Valley, a community in the hilly outskirts of Silicon Valley, is up for approval at the California Public Utilities Commission. Proposed in 2015 as a $2.8 million venture reaching 515 homes, the Light Saber project in southern Santa Clara County was challenged by a local wireless Internet service provider, who claimed to already cover the area.

Not completely so, apparently: more than 350 homes in less affluent San Martin were cut from the project area, but a draft resolution approving a grant for the rest from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) is slated for a vote by commissioners at their first meeting in February. According to the draft…

The proposed project will provide the Paradise Valley community with improved access to e-health services, as well as online economic opportunities. It will also provide public safety benefits by enabling the local communications facilities that provide voice services to meet FCC standards for E911 service and battery backup. The proposed project will also supply public safety agencies in the area with an interconnected public safety data communications network.

Home service begins at $109 per month for symmetrical 50 Mbps service with a two year commitment, and dips to $90 per month with a three year lock in. A symmetrical gigabit will run $289 per month on the two year plan, with a $10 per month discount for a three year term.

South Santa Clara County is a patchwork of Frontier (ex-Verizon), AT&T and Charter territories. Broadband service ranges from mediocre to non-existent, with business and consumer subscribers showing a high level of dissatisfaction with incumbents, even in Morgan Hill, the next door neighbor to San Jose, the self-styled capital of Silicon Valley.

If a final decision is made at the CPUC’s 9 February 2017 meeting, it will be just shy of a year late. CASF program rules approved by the commission set a 106-day deadline for processing and voting on infrastructure construction grant applications, a time frame that’s necessary in order to keep private capital in the game. No justification for taking four times as long as allowed to reach a decision was offered in the draft.