Two big endorsements for major Central Coast broadband project

by Steve Blum • , , , , , ,

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) staff have signed off on a 428 mile fiber optic trunk project for Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties on California’s Central Coast. These approvals make it more likely that the project will receive federal stimulus money through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).smallCCBCmap.png

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) applied for grants to the CPUC’s California Advanced Services Fund and BTOP in August. In round numbers, CCBC asked for $40 million from NTIA and $5 million from the CPUC, with the remaining $5 million coming from local agencies and organizations.

BTOP grants only fund 80% of proposed projects. A special law passed by the California legislature in August allows the CPUC to contribute 10%, if proposals also meet state funding requirements for unserved and underserved areas. CPUC staff reviewed the CCBC proposal, determining that it is a qualified and viable project and recommending that the commission approve it at its next meeting on 20 November 2009. Matching funds for other California broadband stimulus projects will also be considered then.

NTIA sent all 176 California requests to the governor’s office for review. The governor endorsed 64, of which 30 were for broadband infrastructure projects (the remainder were public computer center and “sustainable broadband adoption” proposals). The next step is for NTIA to determine if the CCBC application meets its initial screening criteria and is eligible to move to the second, more intensive due diligence stage of review. That decision is expected within the next couple of weeks.

Tellus Venture Associates did the financial planning for the CCBC project, creating plans and budgets for the construction and operational phases, preparing the required financial documents for NTIA and the CPUC and developing sources for matching requirements and other funding needs. Tellus Venture Associates also managed the application process for the CCBC, identified and documented eligible service areas and, along with the City of Watsonville, Blue Pacific Computer, the Monterey County Business Council and other CCBC members, did the necessary economic and demographic analysis to support the application.

California State University, Monterey Bay was the lead agency for the application, filing it on behalf of the CCBC. CSUMB’s Wireless Education and Technology Center is the host organization for the CCBC, playing the central role in creating, organizing and shepherding this community based initiative.