Open and early application window considered for California broadband grants

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

At the ready.

The next round of applications for broadband infrastructure construction subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) might be accepted on a rolling first come, first served basis, as soon as this summer. That was one of the options discussed this morning by California Public Utilities Commission staff at a statewide meeting of regional broadband consortia in Sacramento.

The CPUC is working on new rules for CASF grants and loans, to allow independent ISPs and local governments to participate in the program, as approved by the state legislature last year. If the current timetable holds true, the first draft of the new rules will be ready by May and finalised in July. At that point, the application window might be opened, and stay that way until the remaining money in the grant fund – call it $130 million – is allocated.

That’s different than the way it was done in the last round, when 30+ proposals were handed in on deadline, more than a year ago. Some are still being evaluated by the commission. Then, applicants had about a year to put together projects. This next time, though, communities and service providers who have planned in advance will have an advantage if the commission starts accepting grant and loan proposals on an open basis.

An open window will be an incentive for incumbents and challengers alike to quickly develop projects and submit applications. It could also help to unclog the review and approval process. All of which needs to happen, given the CPUC’s goal, in keeping with the wishes of the state legislature, to allocate the remaining money by the end of 2015.