CPUC approves $4 million for broadband projects, but tougher decisions are ahead

In a unanimous vote this morning, the California Public Utilities Commission approved $4 million in grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) for three projects: $2 million for Winterhaven in Imperial County and $1.8 million for Olinda in Shasta County – both DSL upgrades – and $117,000 for fixed wireless service in Foresthill in Placer County.
These are the first three projects approved from the batch of thirty two applications submitted back in February. Five are dead, because of challenges from incumbents or fatal flaws in the applications and at least two more are on hold. Eight, totalling $26 million, have made it through the review process and are scheduled for consideration by the commission later this month. That leaves fourteen still under active review.

CASF applications and approved projects, as of 3 October 2013.

Broadly speaking, those fourteen fall into three categories: applications that include loans, heavily challenged projects and ones that are just more complicated than the others. Many, but maybe not all, should be ready for the commission’s consideration before the end of the year. The problematic Golden Bear Broadband proposal aside, the review file comes to $57 million, for a grand total – approved, pending and under review – of $87 million. That’s well within the $138 million (give or take) that’s available from CASF under today’s rules.
Golden Bear originally asked for $119 million, but the project has been evolving since it was first submitted. So it’s anyone’s guess what the tab is now. I doubt it’s been trimmed sufficiently to fit within the $50 million or so that would presumably be available. That leaves three options: kill it completely, fund it and deny several other applications instead, or wait and see what Governor Brown does with senate bill 740. If he signs it, the CASF grant kitty gets an extra $70 million, which the CPUC might or might not want to spend on the current round of applications.
Update: Governor Brown just signed SB 740 (and its companion measure, AB 1299