In a unanimous vote this morning, the California Public Utilities Commission approved $4 million in grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) for three projects: $2 million for Winterhaven in Imperial County and $1.8 million for Olinda in Shasta County – both DSL upgrades – and $117,000 for fixed wireless service in Foresthill in Placer County.
These are the first three projects approved from the batch of thirty two applications submitted back in February. Five are dead, because of challenges from incumbents or fatal flaws in the applications and at least two more are on hold. Eight, totalling $26 million, have made it through the review process and are scheduled for consideration by the commission later this month. That leaves fourteen still under active review.
CASF applications and approved projects, as of 3 October 2013.
Broadly speaking, those fourteen fall into three categories: applications that include loans, heavily challenged projects and ones that are just more complicated than the others. Many, but maybe not all, should be ready for the commission’s consideration before the end of the year. The problematic Golden Bear Broadband proposal aside, the review file comes to $57 million, for a grand total – approved, pending and under review – of $87 million. That’s well within the $138 million (give or take) that’s available from CASF under today’s rules.
Golden Bear originally asked for $119 million, but the project has been evolving since it was first submitted. So it’s anyone’s guess what the tab is now. I doubt it’s been trimmed sufficiently to fit within the $50 million or so that would presumably be available. That leaves three options: kill it completely, fund it and deny several other applications instead, or wait and see what Governor Brown does with senate bill 740. If he signs it, the CASF grant kitty gets an extra $70 million, which the CPUC might or might not want to spend on the current round of applications.
Update: Governor Brown just signed SB 740 (and its companion measure, AB 1299
Three projects proposed for grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) have made it through the review process and are scheduled to be voted on by the California Public Utilities Commission next month. Two of the grant proposals were VDSL2-based and submitted by TDS Telecom, one for $1.8 million in the Olinda area of Shasta County and the other for $2.1 million in the Winterhaven area of Imperial County. Sebastian, which took over the Foresthill Telephone Company, is asking for $117,000 for a fixed wireless system upgrade in Placer County.
CASF applications, as of 3 September 2013.
The draft resolutions were posted on the CPUC website earlier today, giving the minimum 30-day notice required before the scheduled vote by the commission on 3 October 2013. That date could change for any of the projects if one or more commissioners wants it delayed. But in the meantime, the public can comment on the grant proposals.
The requested funding ranges from $961 to $2,148 per household served. No one challenged the Foresthill project, although CPUC staff did ask Sebastian to run some mobile field tests to rule out possible conflicts. Verizon Wireless challenged the Olinda and Winterhaven projects, but didn’t submit any data to back up its complaint.
The $4 million tab for the three projects barely puts a dent in CASF. The commission is scheduled to consider a $10 million spiff for the Digital 395 project on Thursday. Taking previously approved grants and administrative costs into consideration, the available money would still total somewhere in the $130 to $135 million range even if it’s all approved. And there’s the possibility that the California legislature will add more money to CASF.
There are 23 other active CASF applications, totalling about $218 million. Some, like the $119 million middle mile project proposed for northern California by Golden Bear Broadband and the $11 million massive land grab by ViaSat, have generated reams of protests and will still need months to sort out. Most of the rest, though, should emerge from the review process – one way or the other – in the next few weeks, if not sooner.
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.