Fast track broadband projects proposed in northern California

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Almost 120,000 people – 50,000 households – in 14 California counties would be reached by broadband projects reviewed by the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) at its rural forum in Redding last week.

The list of “projects with some current momentum” was developed with the cooperation, and in many cases active participation, of the regional broadband consortia that represent those areas. The plan going forward is to work with project backers, state and federal agencies and CETF to bundle financing together that will cover the typical 30% to 40% investment match requirements of the California Advanced Services Fund.

All the areas involved have been at least provisionally identified as qualifying for CASF grants, which cover 60% to 70% of project construction costs. Loans are also available to cover up to another 20%, to a maximum of $500,000 per project. Projects can be submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission beginning in a little over a week, on 1 December 2014.

One of the projects – dubbed Digital 299 after the state highway it would follow – is aimed at bringing inexpensive middle mile connectivity to Trinity County. The project particularly includes Weaverville, which was pinpointed as a potential hot spot for data center development due to the low cost of electricity there. It also ranked high on measures of social impact and business potential in an analysis I presented at the conference. It’s similar in concept to the Digital 395 fiber network that is now up and running from Reno, down the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada to Barstow.