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CPUC commissioner proposes modest haircut for Cressman

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Update 13 March 2014: The CPUC delayed the vote on the Cressman project to 10 April 2014.


It doesn’t have to look good to look better.

Commissioner Michel Florio wants to trim five homes from a project proposed by Ponderosa Telephone Company in Fresno County, and save the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) $373,000. The project in and around the remote community of Cressman has been stalled for months, at Florio’s request, and now it’s clear why

The fiber optic extension from Lower Cressman to…Rush Creek will cost $621,700, or 36% of the total project costs. This equates to CASF funding of $74,604 per household, more than 23 times the average funds per household of approved CASF grants, for the Rush Creek portion of the Cressman Project. The Commission considers this portion of the project unreasonably expensive since it would bring broadband access to only five additional households.

Ponderosa has drawn fire from Florio in the past. A proposal to spend, by one reckoning, $55,000 per household to provide fiber-to-the-shack service in the Beasore area of Madera County was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, but only after Florio dissented and provided graphic photos of the boarded up, snow bound buildings that were being claimed as homes in the area.

So he’s put a deal on the table: cut the five outlier homes from the project, allow Ponderosa to come back with a better plan to build out in the area (reaching more people in the process) and knock the per household tab of the overall project from $15,000 to $10,000. That’s still a hefty price – exceeded recently only by Ponderosa’s Beasore project – but it’s a worthy attempt to drag CASF priorities back towards the concept of providing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

The CPUC is scheduled to vote on Florio’s proposal this Thursday, 13 March 2014.