CASF grant requests triple the $75 million likely to be in the bank

The grant proposals filed with the California Public Utilities Commission CPUC) on Friday totaled about $246 million. It looks to be about three times the amount of money that will be available in the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) when the Commission votes on the requests later this year. Five of the thirty proposals were submitted with the assistance of Tellus Venture Associates.

In 2010 the California legislature gave the CPUC authority to collect an additional $125 million for CASF via a surcharge on phone bills. That was on top of the $100 million in the original legislation that created the fund in 2008, following Commission action the year before. In the 2010 bill, $10 million is earmarked for the regional consortia program and $15 million for an infrastructure loan fund. The rest goes to grants to build out broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas of the state.

Some of that money has already been spent. Almost $40 million has been awarded to infrastructure projects and several million more has gone to admin and support costs for the program and to regional consortia.

However, permission to collect is not the same as having it in the bank. The money is supposed to come in over a five year period – 2011 to 2015 – at a rate of about $25 million per year. If you read the annual reports and do the math, it looks like CASF will have something in the neighborhood of $75 million on hand. Maybe a little more.

There’s a long review and scoring process ahead. Next Tuesday, the CPUC is due to post the project summaries and locations on its website. Then competing broadband service providers have a chance to challenge any assertion that a given area is under or unserved. That’ll take a while. But looking on the bright side, the longer it takes, the more money CPUC will have in the bank.