CPUC plans to approve extra $10 million for Digital 395 without discussion

4 September 2013 by Steve Blum
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Digital 395 gets the fast track and cash.

A last minute change to tomorrow’s California Public Utilities Commission agenda put a request for an extra $10 million for the Digital 395 project on the meeting’s consent calendar. Assuming no commissioner asks otherwise, that means the money will be approved without questions, debate or public comment.

A new draft resolution was also circulated a few days ago, identifying a single, unified Digital 395 fiber backbone network, stretching from Reno to Barstow down the eastern edge of California, as the commission’s top goal. The draft resolution would approve $10 million more from the California Advanced Services Fund to make up for cost overruns that were largely caused by a complicated and occasionally contradictory regulatory approval process.

Next in priority are the issues raised last month in support letters submitted by Mono County agencies…

In addition to providing end-to-end connectivity, the Commission recognizes the needs presented by Mono County officials. It therefore directs the CBC to work with CD staff in meeting as many of these priorities as possible…In particular, the Commission emphasizes the need to build the fiber route to June Lake, which is the highest priority identified by Mono County officials, after ensuring a unified network.

The new draft also trims $17,000 from the original request, because environmental approvals haven’t been granted for a handful of project elements, but assuming that happens, the resolution would hold out the hope of another $1 million for the additional work.

Another change is a softening of earlier language that put some of the blame for the overruns on the California Broadband Cooperative, which runs the project. The first draft cited “poor planning, assumptions and other factors under the CBC’s control” as contributing to the extra cost. The new version leaves out the bit about poor planning and assumptions, after objections were raised by the project’s CEO.