California broadband consortia inch forward

21 July 2016 by Steve Blum
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Urgency means different things to different people.

Three regional broadband consortia have a tentative okay for operating money from the California Advanced Services Fund. The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote on grants for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, the East Bay Broadband Consortium and the Tahoe Basin Project at its 18 August 2016 meeting (assuming an email error on Tuesday by the CPUC doesn’t delay it). Commissioners will be considering a draft resolution released on Tuesday that, if adopted, will approve the awards.

CCBC has been working on broadband development in San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties for more than 20 years. It received its first CASF consortia grant in 2011. That money paid for development of an online broadband development tool and policy initiatives, which in turn supported 20 infrastructure project proposals, about half of which were approved and are either completed or in progress. The new grant – $264,500 – would continue that work.

The proposal submitted by EBBC – for $272,160 – focuses on low cost and free computers, digital literacy programs and other efforts to increase broadband use, particularly in low income communities. The Tahoe consortium is also being recommended for its full grant request of $200,000 to continue working on last mile broadband projects – it has two in the hopper so far – and to clear the way for more mobile infrastructure and middle mile fiber construction.

The draft resolution is certainly welcome, not least by the consortia involved, but it still leaves a dozen grant proposals from consortia up and down California on hold. Assuming the commission makes a decision in August, it’ll be more than six months since the applications were filed, and a year and a day since a bill authorising the money – carried by assemblyman Jim Wood (D – Healdsburg) – was unanimously approved by lawmakers.

With special status as urgency legislation. It’s time to take the California legislature at its word.

I’m the project lead for CCBC, and EBBC and the Tahoe project are my clients. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Quite the contrary. Take it for what it’s worth.