Tag Archives: ponderosa

CPUC says a kiss for Cressman beats the alternative

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

“Just so we understand, it screws five families”, said an animated Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission as he lambasted a move to slice $373,000 from a proposed Fresno County broadband project.

Ponderosa Telephone Company asked for a $1 million grant from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to build a fiber optic middle mile line to the mountain community of Cressman, use it to upgrade DSL service for 65 homes there, and then extend it two and a half miles to five more homes in Rush Creek. But adding those five homes costs $74,000 each, more than twenty times the CASF average.

The justification offered was that Ponderosa could later come back and build out to a U.S. Forest Service station in Blue Canyon and then continue on to complete a fiber loop for the area. That seemed like a fine idea to commissioner Michel Florio, who thought that the five homes should be trimmed from the proposal on the table, and added later when Ponderosa was ready to complete the whole project.

“Over a third of the cost of the project is for Rush Creek which only serves five households”, Florio said, pointing out that average household income in the area ran as high as $80,000 per year. “It seems unjustified to me”.

But Peevey insisted that the money would be spent one way or the other. “The only point is do you exclude these five homes or not. You’re going to have to complete it eventually”, he said.

It came down to the vote. Commissioner Carla Peterman sided with Florio, but Catherine Sandoval and Michael Picker went with Peevey. Once Florio’s proposed changes were rejected, the original proposal was put on the table and all five commissioners agreed to fund it as written.

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

The art of estimating broadband subsidy costs by households in rural California

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

It’s one house, but how many homes?

Maybe 800 homes on the western side of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains will get upgraded broadband service, many via fiber to the home connections, if a pair of draft resolutions is approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

CPUC staff is recommending giving Ponderosa Telephone Company a total of $2.7 million from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). About $1.8 million would go to an FTTH build in two small Madera County communities, Beasore and Central Camp, and $900,000 would help pay for a DSL upgrade and limited FTTH service in the Big Creek area of Fresno County.

The actual number of customers to be served is uncertain. U.S. census data says there’s only 79 homes in the Big Creek area and 32 homes total in Beasore and Central Camp. On the other hand, Ponderosa claims the numbers are 635 and 159 respectively, an estimate based on seasonal and multi-tenant housing and on their existing telephone customer list. By Ponderosa’s reckoning, they’re asking for subsidies of $1,400 per home in Big Creek and $11,000 per home in Beasore/Central Camp. Using the census numbers, as the CPUC traditionally does, the subsidies jump to $11,000 and $55,000 respectively.

There’s a certain amount of art involved in counting households in remote rural areas. The census frequently misses people – particularly those who want to be missed. Several residences, of varying sorts, might be at the same address. Plus there are occupants of second and seasonal homes, who might be counted elsewhere for census purposes. Ponderosa provided documentation to back up its claim, which was further supported by aerial photographs of the communities.

Along with projects proposed by Pinnacles Telephone Company, Race Telecommunications and WillitsOnline, the two Ponderosa grants are scheduled to be voted on at the CPUC’s 31 October 2013 meeting.

Meanwhile, the CPUC will take up three others tomorrow, in Forest Hill (Placer County), Olinda (Shasta County) and Winterhaven (Imperial County).