Handful of CASF projects ready to move forward

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Sorry, it’s not the popular boys who go to the head of the CASF line.

It’s been more than five months since thirty-two broadband infrastructure projects totalling nearly $250 million were proposed for funding by the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). Five have been taken off the table for various reasons, leaving 27 still asking for about $223 million in grant money. Not all can be funded – there’s only $158 million left in CASF’s grant account – and not all may, in the end, be eligible.

It’s the California Public Utilities Commission’s job to decide who gets CASF subsidies and who doesn’t. However, incumbent carriers who prefer to fence off rural areas from competition rather than upgrade service to twenty-first century standards are being helpful. They’ve unloaded a ton of protests on commission staff, and each one has to be evaluated on its own merits. So the process is moving slowly.

It looks like a handful will move ahead, though. Seven of the applications didn’t draw any fire from incumbents. The list of the lucky seven hasn’t been officially released, but it appears likely some or all of those proposals were submitted by small local telephone companies who operate in territory that AT&T and Verizon never entered, and cable companies tend to avoid.

CPUC staff is in the process of finalising their evaluation of those seven, with draft resolutions expected to be in the hands of the CPUC soon. If commissioners like what they see, at least a handful of projects will probably be underway by fall. That’ll leave 20 on the table and, unfortunately, it could take a few more months to work through the stack.