Wide swing on costs for California broadband subsidy proposals, for fiber and copper

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Swing dance

Of the 52 applications for broadband infrastructure grants from the California Advanced Services Fund, 23 are for fiber to the premise (FTTP) builds of one kind or another, 16 are hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) projects, all submitted by Charter Communications, and 13 would be for fixed wireless facilities.

The least expensive proposals are, naturally enough, fixed wireless projects, most of which are in the $1,500 per home range. It’s probably no coincidence that the California Public Utility Commission’s benchmark price for wireless subsidies is also $1,500 per home.

Three of the proposed FTTP projects include fixed wireless add ons, to extend coverage to outlying homes. The numbers for each aren’t always broken out in the published project summaries, so my dollars per home unit number lumps them all together. You’d think that the combo FTTP/wireless projects would have lower costs per home than pure FTTP builds – wireless is a lot cheaper to deploy than fiber. But that isn’t the case – the average cost for pure FTTP projects is $28,000 per home, while the combo builds come in at an average of $41,000 per home.

The reason for that isn’t completely clear, but it’s worth noting that all three reach into areas that cover a lot of sparsely populated ground. There’s also wide variance. The Hoopa Valley project in Humboldt County proposed by Hunter Communications is the least expensive at $6,900 per home. The published summary implies that the majority of last mile connections will be wireless. At the other end of the spectrum, the Mendocino County proposal, also by Hunter Communications, comes in at $49,000 per home. According to the summary, about ten percent of the homes reached by the project will get service via a wireless connection.

The cost of the 20 pure FTTP projects varies widely, from a low of $8,800 per home for Race Communications’ Gigafy Arbuckle proposal in Colusa County, to $95,000 per home for Frontier Communications’ build in Cuyama, in eastern Santa Barbara County. The cost of that project includes 82 miles of much needed middle mile fiber that connects Santa Maria on the coast to Maricopa in Kern County.

The most expensive project on a per home basis, though, is an old school copper and fiber HFC cable build, proposed by Charter Communications in the in a Moorpark neighborhood in Ventura County. That would cost $117,000 per home. On the other hand, Charter is also applying for a $1,500 per home grant in Los Angeles County, which is the least expensive wireline project in the hopper, and only three bucks a home more than the cheapest wireless proposal.

CASF Project Proposals – 4 May 2020 Grant Application Window

Bella VistaCharter$715,35660$11,923ShastaHFC
BrooksideCharter$933,563243$3,842Los AngelesHFC
Country MeadowsCharter$2,165,515314$6,897San BernardinoHFC
Darlene RoadCharter$815,9677$116,567VenturaHFC
El Dorado EstatesCharter$1,477,032276$5,352VenturaHFC
Foothill TerraceCharter$489,513327$1,497Los AngelesHFC
Kingswood EstatesCharter$1,210,006120$10,083PlacerHFC
Los AlisosCharter$1,299,530451$2,881OrangeHFC
Monterey ManorCharter$796,19892$8,654San BernardinoHFC
Mountain ShadowsCharter$2,006,811132$15,203San BernardinoHFC
Oxnard PacificCharter$1,725,964171$10,093VenturaHFC
Plaza VillageCharter$658,436178$3,699OrangeHFC
River OaksCharter$829,46245$18,432San BenitoHFC
Soboda SpringsCharter$983,817249$3,951RiversideHFC
Villa MontclairCharter$548,27964$8,567San BernardinoHFC
Butte YubaDigital Path$872,761582$1,500Butte, YubaWireless
Fresno CountyDigital Path$448,349299$1,499FresnoWireless
Glenn CountyDigital Path$361,500241$1,500GlennWireless
Lake CountyDigital Path$123,00082$1,500LakeWireless
Mendocino CountyDigital Path$138,00092$1,500MendocinoWireless
Plumas LassenDigital Path$865,000577$1,499Plumas, LassenWireless
Sacramento CountyDigital Path$230,000154$1,494SacramentoWireless
Sierra CountyDigital Path$241,000161$1,497SierraWireless
Siskiyou CountyDigital Path$138,00092$1,500SiskiyouWireless
Sutter PlacerDigital Path$418,433277$1,511SutterWireless
Tehama CountyDigital Path$935,976624$1,500TehamaWireless
Central CoastEtheric$3,180,3301,976$1,609Monterey, San BenitoWireless
Crescent CityFrontier$1,586,885134$11,842Del NorteFTTP
CuyamaFrontier$12,462,755131$95,136Kern, Santa BarbaraFTTP
Knights LandingFrontier$4,590,845104$44,143Colusa, Sutter, YoloFTTP
Lake IsabellaFrontier$9,595,168405$23,692KernFTTP
Mad RiverFrontier$8,169,979203$40,246Humboldt, TrinityFTTP
Northeast Phase 2Frontier$10,358,969502$20,635Plumas, TehamaFTTP
Smith RiverFrontier$1,428,47955$25,972Del NorteFTTP
Hoopa ValleyHunter$8,233,3401,198$6,873HumboldtFTTP, wireless
Mendocino CountyHunter$290,327,9405,870$49,460MendocinoFTTP, wireless
Long ValleyPlumas Sierra$4,118,25554$76,264PlumasFTTP
Mohawk ValleyPlumas Sierra$2,271,03954$42,056PlumasFTTP
PortolaPlumas Sierra$2,587,67785$30,443PlumasFTTP
Scott RoadPlumas Sierra$4,307,47588$48,949Lassen, SierraFTTP
Sierra ValleyPlumas Sierra$5,123,342283$18,104Plumas, SierraFTTP, wireless
Southern LassenPlumas Sierra$13,630,662868$15,704LassenFTTP
Gigafy ArbuckleRace$4,241,181480$8,836ColusaFTTP
Gigafy Backus 2Race$4,702,649266$17,679KernFTTP
Gigafy Nevada CityRace$6,154,776499$12,334NevadaFTTP
Gigafy WilliamsRace$6,758,805588$11,495ColusaFTTP
Sonoma/NapaWeb Perception$1,450,697504$2,878Napa. SonomaWireless
West Sonoma CountyWiConduit$81,886,0951,342$61,018SonomaFTTP

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) supported Charter’s San Benito County proposal and assisted Etheric Networks with its application. The Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC) assisted DigitalPath. I assisted the CCBC and the CCABC, and also kibitzed on other projects. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.