Legislative push for more money, fewer restrictions for CASF

by Steve Blum • , , , , , ,

Do you think this would cover it?

A last minute push is on at the state capitol to put more money in the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) and open up eligibility. The deadline for new legislation is this Friday, 22 February 2013. The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and other broadband advocates are working with two key lawmakers – Senator Alex Padilla and Assemblyman Steven Bradford – to get a bill introduced by then.

Two goals are in sight: lifting the $225 million cap on CASF funding – maybe by an additional $100 million – and allowing a wider range of companies and organizations to apply for broadband infrastructure subsidies.

CASF gets its money from a surcharge on telephone bills. The California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) authority to collect it runs out in 2015. Sooner if they hit the cap. CETF wants that authority extended and the limit raised. The hit to phone bills would be the same on a monthly basis, but would continue longer than planned.

As it stands, CPUC has more infrastructure grant requests than money available. If commissioners decide to allocate all of the remainder to the current round of applicants, the CASF infrastructure grant program will end, although the smaller revolving loan program would continue.

Putting another $100 million in the kitty still wouldn’t satisfy demand. It would barely cover current requests, and expanding eligibility would only add to the queue.

Padilla is chair of the Senate energy, utilities and communication committee, and Bradford heads up the Assembly utilities and commerce committee. Both represent constituencies in the City of Los Angeles and serve on the California Broadband Council. They worked together on passing and implementing Senate Bill 1040 in 2010, officially carried by Padilla, which lifted an earlier cap on CASF and expanded its scope to include the loan fund and regional broadband consortia. If a bill is submitted before next week’s deadline, both committees are expected to hold hearings in April.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.