Tag Archives: willitsonline

No progress, no paperwork, no grants for California broadband projects

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Five broadband projects are about to lose funding, as the California Public Utilities Commission prepares to cancel $4.5 million worth of grants originally given to pay for construction costs. The companies that would have received the subsidies either decided not to move ahead with the project or just sort of disappeared and failed to file the proper paperwork.

Verizon had two of the projects – one in Pinyon in Riverside County and the other in the Sea Ranch area of Sonoma County. It’s not clear what, if anything, Verizon actually built, but it didn’t file necessary reports or even ask to draw down the money. So the $2.5 million it was awarded from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) will go back into the kitty. It’s odd – Verizon apparently finished the work but, for some reason, didn’t want the reimbursement.

Shasta County Telecom is losing $2.2 million for a fixed wireless project northeast of Redding, because it apparently disappeared off the face of the planet. The narrative in the draft resolution rescinding the grant reads like an account of a lost expedition to the South Pole: a cryptic message about bad weather, and then silence. Search parties couldn’t find their tracks and they were never heard from again.

A $149,000 DSL project in the Westport area of Mendocino County was cancelled, apparently because people in the local community were opposed to plans to build a microwave backhaul link. At least that’s what WillitsOnline told CPUC staff.

The private beachfront community of Monterey Dunes won’t be getting a fiber-fed upgrade. Surfnet Communications received a $79,000 grant from CASF to pay for 60% of the cost, plus a $26,000 loan to cover another 20%, but residents reneged on their agreement to pay for the rest. One of the problems, which the draft resolution neglects to mention, was that the CPUC took more than 14 months – 11 months longer than the time allowed – to process the application.

Assuming commissioners vote to cancel the subsidies, the $4.5 million will be recycled back into the CASF infrastructure grant account and become available for other projects.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted Surfnet with the Monterey Dunes project proposal. I am a frustrated commentator, not a disinterested one. Take it for what it’s worth.

CPUC faces a decision on broadband subsidy limits

Broadband construction subsidies are averaging $2,200 per household, as the California Public Utilities Commission works through the current round of proposals submitted for California Advanced Services Fund grants. Nine applications for last mile projects have been approved so far, with an estimated reach of 9,700 homes and totalling $21 million.

CASF approved projects, as of 31 October 2013.

The most money – $3,800 per household passed – is going to an FTTH project in the high desert town of Boron. A DSL upgrade in Boonville, in Mendocino County, is getting the least, $270 per home, including both a $123,000 grant and a $41,000 loan. Reckoning on just the grant amount, the per household subsidy in Boonville is $202.

A combined middle and last mile project in Humboldt County has also been funded, at a cost of $6.6 million to CASF. Its immediate reach is estimated at about 700 homes, which puts it at $8,100 per household, but that includes the cost of a 82 mile backbone connection to an Internet hub down the coast, which is expected to support other last mile Internet service providers once it’s built.

The only project that commissioners have looked at and put on hold is a $1.8 million FTTH proposal in Madera County. Depending on how households are counted, it’s either far out of the current range at $11,000, or astronomically so at $55,000 per home passed. They’re scheduled to vote on it next Thursday at their 14 November 2013 meeting, although it could get bumped again. It’s an opportunity for commissioners to set a per household limit on broadband construction subsidies. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with it.

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.

Competitive ADSL upgrade subsidies recommended for California’s Mendocino County

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

DSL upgrades installed by a competitive local exchange carrier in two Mendocino county towns will be largely paid for by the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), if the California Public Utilities Commission approves draft resolutions released yesterday. With AT&T and Verizon quietly shutting down DSL service in rural areas of California, these types of projects might be a way to avoid forcing residents to rely on the costly wireless service preferred by the incumbents.

Both projects were proposed by WillitsOnline. One involves installing ADSL2+ equipment in AT&T central office in Boonville, and connecting it to leased fiber that runs back to a switch WillitsOnline is building in Ukiah. About 600 homes will be offered speeds up to 25 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload via AT&T’s existing copper. Eighty percent of the cost of the project would come from CASF, $123,000 as a grant and $41,000 as a loan.

WillitsOnline walks the walk, but can it talk the talk?

In Westport, a once thriving logging town in the far north of the county, WillitsOnline proposes to install an outdoor DSLAM next to AT&T’s terminal and build a microwave backhaul link to feed it. They’ll use AT&T’s subscriber lines to offer 6 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up to 126 homes. Because about half those homes have no broadband service available, except from satellite ISPs, CASF would contribute $149,000 in grant funding to the project, which is 65% of the cost. CASF gives grants of up to 70% of the cost of infrastructure projects in underserved areas and 60% in underserved ones.

Comcast tried to block the Boonville project, telling the CPUC it offered broadband service in the proposed area. After digging into the details, though, CPUC staff determined Comcast had its geography wrong and dismissed the challenge.

These days, Boonville is probably best known for its microbrewery, but it has a special place in California history as the only town to develop its own indigenous language, called Boontling. In the 1970s, it was also passingly infamous as the site of an indoctrination camp run by the Moonies.

Putting Boonville online will be good for the community, and good fun for the rest of us.

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.