California broadband grant requests inch toward decisions

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) staff have started drafting resolutions for funding at least some of the broadband infrastructure proposals submitted last February for subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF).

The fact that staff is putting the necessary paperwork together – preliminary environmental assessments and public safety impact, for example – doesn’t mean that a project will rate highly enough to be recommended, but it does mean that the preliminary task of determining whether a project is eligible for CASF money is complete, or nearly so.

Active CASF applications, as of 18 August 2013.

The indication is that the projects that attracted the most protests from incumbent providers – Golden Bear and ViaSat are top of that list – are still in play but could be scaled back. Smaller projects have also been trimmed a bit, as applicants, incumbents and CPUC staff wrangle over whether the places being proposed for funding are truly under (or un) served.

If the Digital 395 project in eastern California gets the extra $10 million it requested a couple weeks ago, the total amount available for grants will be about $148 million. The big questions are whether the Golden Bear project will be funded and, if so, how much will it get. As originally proposed, it would have eaten up $119 million of the available money, but it’s looking likely that the size of the project will be scaled back and that it will, initially at least, be held to the 60% to 70% grant funding limit set by the CPUC, instead of the 90%+ requested.

With other proposals being trimmed too, the gap between requests and available money might narrow to the point that nearly all of the 26 currently active applications could get funded. And if the Golden Bear project is completely rejected, there should be more than enough for them all.

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