Tag Archives: spiral

CPUC approves ownership transfer, re-start of Nevada County FTTH project

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Bucket on pole

Updated at 10:41 with statement from Race.

The Bright Fiber FTTH project in Nevada County was resurrected this morning by the California Public Utilities Commission. In a unanimous vote (on the consent calendar, if you follow such things), the CPUC approved transferring control of Bright Fiber Network, along with a $16 million grant, to Race Telecommunications. Several people spoke for and against the project – wireless Internet service providers were against it, the Nevada County board of supervisors and the Gold Country Broadband Consortium were in favor.

After the vote, Race issued a statement that says, in part…

“Race is humbled and grateful that the Commission has moved quickly to approve this transfer of control of Bright Fiber and review the needed CASF project changes so that Race can construct this important project for the community,” said Raul Alcaraz, President of Race.  “Our team at Race has been blessed to have a successful track record of CASF projects, and we feel confident we can deliver a reliable, fast and affordable broadband system.”

Race and Bright Fiber will hold a Town Hall meeting for the community in the evening on Wednesday, January 30th to describe the amended project to interested community members and to answer any questions.  The location and time of the Town Hall will be announced shortly.

Nevada County FTTH project gets new lease on life

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Spiral event 30oct2014

Update: the CPUC unanimously approved the transfer of Bright Fiber Networks, and the $16 million CASF subsidy, to Race Telecommunications this morning.

The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote today on whether or not Race Telecommunications should be allowed to take over ownership of Bright Fiber Network, which received a $16 million subsidy from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) in 2015 to build an FTTH network to serve 1,900 homes near Nevada City in Nevada County.

The project was developed by Spiral Internet, a long established independent Internet service provider in California’s Gold Country. Spiral has been working to raise the necessary matching funds – $10.7 million – for the past four years, but has not been able to attract investors. If approved by the CPUC, ownership of Bright Fiber Network and rights to the CASF grant would be transferred to Race. Spiral would continue to operate its primarily DSL based ISP business.

Race brings two critical elements to the table: it has access to capital and experience building residential fiber networks in rural California. It’s received several CASF grants over the past ten years, and has what appears to be an excellent track record with the CPUC.

The project would be redesigned. Instead of laying fiber underground, as Spiral originally planned, Race would install cables on existing utility pole routes. The cost of the project to taxpayers would be $70,000 less.

Two wireless Internet service providers in the area – Smarter Broadband and ColfaxNet – filed bitter objections to the transfer of control, as they have done in the past. The draft resolution in front of the commission would reject their arguments once again.

As of last night, the resolution was on the commission’s consent agenda. Unless a commissioner asks that it be discussed and voted on separately, it’ll be approved along with several other items that are considered non-controversial in a single motion.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted Bright Fiber with preparation of its CASF grant application. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

One CASF grant approved, one released and one on hold

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

A $511,000 broadband upgrade grant for a cable system owned by CalNeva in Fresno County was unanimously approved by the California Public Utilities Commission at its 11 May 2017 meeting. The commission also signed off on environmental clearances and released $17 million in grant and loan subsidies for the Bright Fiber FTTH project in Nevada County. The $29 million proposal by Race Telecommunications for an FTTH system in the Phelan area, in San Bernardino County was bumped to the commission’s 25 May 2017 meeting.

CPUC approves Nevada County FTTH project

by Steve Blum • , , ,

A $16 million fiber to the home grant from the California Advanced Services Fund was approved this morning by the California Public Utilities Commission. It was a 4 to 1 vote with CPUC president Michael Picker voting no. The Bright Fiber Nevada County Connected project still needs to pass environmental reviews. About $11 million in private financing also needs to be secured. Full disclosure: I worked on the Bright Fiber grant application.

No opening day CASF gold rush

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

There was no stampede for the newest round of broadband infrastructure grants and loans from the California Advanced Services Fund. No project applications were filed yesterday, the first day of the new season. Or at least, there were no notifications sent out – applicants are supposed to send a project summary to a service list maintained by the CPUC. And yes, I checked my spam folder.

Even so, there are still project proposals totalling $26.2 million in the hopper, left over from the last round, which closed nearly 2 years ago, on 1 February 2013. ViaSat has an active application that originally asked for $11.1 million to buy satellite terminals for subscribers across a wide swath of western California.

It’s a fine idea in many respects – some homes are so remote that satellite Internet service is the only technically and economically viable option. But under CASF rules, every home in the massive project area – not just the relative handful opting for satellite service – would be taken off the table for future subsidies for several years. That little problem along with a flood of protests from ISPs that operate under that footprint have stalled ViaSat’s proposal.

The other proposal still under consideration – $15.2 million for a fiber-to-the-home system in Nevada County submitted by Spiral Internet – also ran into stiff opposition from incumbents. Particularly from a fixed wireless company that had received a stimulus grant several years ago. That problem seems to be solved, mainly by waiting it out, and the proposal is back under active consideration.

The current round stays open until the available money – something like $160 million – runs out. The last time, there was a set deadline, which saw more than 30 applications drop on the same day, ready or not. This time, the thinking is that keeping the window open will allow applicants to take the time to fully prepare, and let the CPUC quickly reject deficient applications without prejudice. So far, so good. If, instead of a flood, there’s a steady trickle of quality projects, it can fairly be called a success.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with the Spiral Internet CASF application, among others, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

Enthusiasm builds for Nevada County FTTH project, hope is money will follow

by Steve Blum • , , ,

A standing room only crowd turned out in Nevada City on Thursday evening to celebrate the kick-off of a $28 million fiber-to-the-home project. As proposed, it would bring a full gigabit – up and down – to nearly 3,000 homes and hundreds of businesses in Nevada County. Hosted by Spiral Internet, the gala was intended to light a fire under the Bright Fiber build proposed nearly 2 years ago for a big grant and a (relatively) small loan from the California Advanced Services Fund.

Submitted in February, 2013, the application stalled because of opposition from existing Internet service providers, including Comcast, Suddenlink, Verizon and, crucially, a local fixed wireless company – SmarterBroadband – that had received a federal stimulus grant several years ago, but didn’t complete the required work.

Originally proposed for a $16.6 million grant and $500,000 loan, the grant amount has been trimmed back to $15.2 million in response to those challenges. The balance would come from private investors. California Public Utilities Commission staff are still reviewing it, though.

Spiral CEO John Paul was optimistic that the project would soon be in front of commissioners and approved.

Speakers at the event included representatives from Kansas City, where Google is building a gigabit network neighborhood by neighborhood, Anne Neville, the director of the federal department of commerce’s state broadband initiative, and Blair Levin, previously the author of the FCC’s national broadband plan and now with the Brookings Institute.

“The gigabit network is the commons, it’s something that we’ll all share”, Levin said. “We buy broadband as a community”.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with the Bright Fiber CASF application, among others, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.