Included in last week’s reboot of the California Advanced Services Fund’s broadband infrastructure subsidy program was a long priority list of places where broadband infrastructure is considered sub-standard by local communities. It’s the result of several months of work by regional broadband consortia throughout the state, most of whom presented their findings at a statewide broadband summit in Sacramento in March.
By approving the list – along with a new schedule and process for applying for CASF grants and loans – the California Public Utilities Commission put both incumbent cable and telephone companies and would-be competitors on notice that these dark spots on the California broadband map are ready to be filled. As commissioner Michel Florio put it…
I particularly like the designation of priority areas. Up to now it’s kind of been wait and see what somebody brings us, and now with the help of the consortia we have an extensive list of places where broadband infrastructure is needed and I hope this decision will give us a big boost in that direction. Folks who are looking for business opportunities – 182 communities in 47 counties, that’s a lot of territory that we still need to cover with broadband infrastructure. So let’s get on with it.
Incumbents have been given what’s being called a right of first refusal to upgrade infrastructure in substandard areas, and now they’ve been put on notice about 182 specific gaps. Some of those areas could be contentious – some ISPs, particularly mobile carriers, make unsupported claims about the level of service they provide. If nothing else, it’s a chance for the ground truth to come out.