CPUC rebukes Verizon, prepares to vote on five broadband projects

No point in kicking if the game is long over.

A series of procedural temper tantrums earned Verizon politely worded advice to pay attention to the rules and nothing more. In revised draft resolutions (still) recommending approval of California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) subsidies for three broadband projects challenged by Verizon, California Public Utilities Commission staff laid out what should have been done. For example, regarding a project proposed for Boonville in Mendocino County

CD staff reminds Verizon that for all CASF project proposals, a challenge window and deadline is set up for submitting challenges on pending applications. In particular for the WillitsOnline Boonville Project, the deadline provided to submit challenges was March 4, 2013; 21 days after the web-posting of the project summary information and map. Verizon did not submit a challenge to the Boonville Project.

Similar rebukes are in the revised resolutions for a similar project in Westport, also by WillitsOnline in Mendocino County, and a fiber-to-the-home proposal for Boron, in eastern Kern County, proposed by Race Telecommunications. Nevertheless, as the drafts detail, CPUC staff compared Verizon’s complaints to actual mobile broadband field test data and found there was no basis for the protest.

Five CASF infrastructure project proposals are on the agenda for tomorrow’s commission meeting. One, by Pinnacles Telephone Company in San Benito County – didn’t attract any heat. Neither did proposals by Ponderosa Telephone Company in Fresno and Madera Counties, but only the Fresno project is scheduled for a vote.

The Madera project has been placed on hold by CPUC president Michael Peevey, and likely won’t be taken up on Thursday. No reason was given, but it’s worth pointing out that there’s some uncertainty about how many households will actually be served by the project. Ponderosa says the build will reach 159 housing units, while census figures say there are only 32 in the area. Even using Ponderosa’s figure, the $1.8 million request equates to an $11,000 subsidy per home, the highest among the resolutions considered so far. Using the census figures, the subsidy would be five times that, $55,000 per home. It wouldn’t be unreasonable or surprising if commissioners had some questions.

All totalled, commissioners will be voting on $4.8 million in grants for the five projects, and an additional $41,000 loan for the Boonville proposal.

The revised draft resolutions are here:

Pinnacles – San Benito
Ponderosa – Fresno
Ponderosa – Madera (on hold until 14 November 2013)

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, including the Pinnacles project, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.