CPUC approves broadband testing, mapping money

23 September 2013 by Steve Blum
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Good for another year.

The California Public Utilities Commission waved through next year’s budget for the California Advanced Services Fund, voting unanimous approval at last week’s meeting.

The plan includes a steep jump in administrative costs, without giving much detail on the reason for the increase. The CPUC’s division of ratepayer advocates asked for more transparency after the first draft of the budget resolution was released. There wasn’t much more detail about overhead costs in the approved version, though.

One item in the budget was $1.5 million to support the CPUC’s broadband mapping program after federal money runs out next September. That comes to about $2 million a year on an annualised basis. DRA didn’t object to the mapping project, but, again, wanted more detail on how the money is being spent. The final budget resolution made a better case…

[T]he California Interactive Broadband Map is a tool that the CASF uses to find and investigate broadband service in areas where project proposals are submitted. Without the continued work and efforts in the analysis of broadband availability data and updating of the map, it would be difficult for the Commission to determine what areas of the State are eligible for funding.

The California cable industry’s lobbying front, the California Cable and Telecommunications Association, griped about the mapping and testing program too, saying the state should just rely on federal data. That would also make it harder for independent ISPs and cities to get CASF subsidies to build infrastructure. Which would suit CCTA just fine. The CPUC brushed off those complaints.

Assuming overhead and mapping/testing costs continue on the new course, there will be about $135 million left in the infrastructure grant kitty, unless Governor Brown signs senate bill 740, which would add another $70 million. That’s against something over $200 million in pending project requests, and more waiting in the wings for the next round of grant applications, whenever that might be.