Two last mile projects line up for California coastal fiber proposal

by Steve Blum • , , , , , , ,

The first two – of what is hoped to be many – last mile projects that rely on a proposed middle mile link from Santa Cruz to Soledad are now in front of the California Public Utilities Commission. Draft resolutions were published today that set the stage for the approval of a total of $343,000 in grants and loans from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to partially pay for building the infrastructure needed to deliver 100 Mbps broadband service to homes in two underserved communities in northern Monterey County, at the mouth of the Salinas Valley.

One would bring fiber to a compact group of 120 homes in the Monterey Dunes community, then feed them by upgrading existing copper wires to fast ethernet standards. The other would leverage construction work along an underserved stretch of the proposed middle route to bring fiber-to-the-home service to almost 300 homes in the Paradise Road area. Both projects were proposed by Surfnet Communications, an independent Internet service provider currently operating in the Santa Cruz mountains.

The 91-mile middle mile fiber network proposed by Sunesys LLC is the key to turning these plans into reality. By offering inexpensive and reliable backhaul, it makes Surfnet’s business models feasible. The Sunesys project, though, depends on the CPUC raising the current CASF subsidy limit to pay for $11 million (83%) of its $13.3 million cost.

All three projects are scheduled for a vote on 13 March 2014. The CPUC is accepting comments, pro and con, of course. Those are due on 3 March 2014.

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