WiFi dominates California public housing broadband grant proposals

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Good enough for public housing.

Wired networks account for only two of the 52 public housing grant proposals made to the California Public Utilities Commission in the first round of applications. The rest either rely on WiFi – mesh networks, mostly – or, in the case of 24 projects proposed by the San Bernardino County housing authority, don’t specify a technology type.

Promised service speeds are consistent with both the technology proposed and the CPUC’s disappointing low minimum of 1.5 Mbps down and nothing particular for uploads, significantly less than the 6 Mbps down/1.5 Mbps minimum it thinks is acceptable for Californians who don’t live in public housing, and nowhere near the FCC’s new standard of 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up.

On the other hand, the proposed pricing is in line with speeds: most applicants intend to provide Internet service to tenants for free, and no one is proposing more than $3 per month. Except, again, San Bernardino, which doesn’t have a business plan either. All it’s saying is it “will not charge the resident more than $20.00 per month”, which is the maximum allowed by the CPUC’s public housing grant program.

All together, the 52 projects are asking for $1.3 million in grants, which barely dents the $20 million in the kitty. There’s another $5 million set aside for marketing Internet service to public housing residents. Funded adoption projects don’t have to be tied to facility grants, but all 28 proposals (totalling $729,000) in this round were.

So there’s plenty of money left for the next round of public housing broadband facilities and marketing grants from the California Advanced Services Fund. Applications are due 1 April 2015.