California broadband promotion, access grant program oversubscribed

21 October 2018 by Steve Blum
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Thirty three organisations – non-profits, and local government and educational agencies – asked the California Public Utilities Commission for a total of $8.4 million to pay for broadband education and access efforts – broadband adoption programs, as the California legislature labels it. A $20 million broadband adoption kitty was established by assembly bill 1665 last year, to ease the political pain of turning the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) into a $300 million gift to AT&T and Frontier Communications.

The initial application window closed at the end of August, with $5 million available in the first round, and a $100,000 limit on each grant. Several organisations filed applications for multiple projects and/or locations, with two – Fresno State University and the United Way – asking for a total of $1.4 million each. There’s a ranking system for applications which will presumably be used to figure out who gets funded and for how much.

This week, the CPUC sent out a notice that the broadband adoption account previously run as part of the CASF public housing program was out of money, so future grant proposals would have to be directed at the new, all-comers program.

The CPUC is also updating its regional broadband consortia program, and is scheduled to vote on the new rules next week. AB 1665 restricted consortia activities to supporting infrastructure grant applications. Several regional consortia have been focused on broadband promotion and digital literacy training, and will now have to rely on the broadband adoption account to continue those activities. At least one – the Youth Policy Institute, which is a part of the Los Angeles County super-consortium – applied for adoption money.

So there will be a lot of hands reaching for the $15 million that’ll be left in the CASF broadband adoption account. The deadline for submitting applications for the next round of broadband adoption grant funding is the beginning of next year.