CPUC tells regional consortia to build broadband infrastructure

13 June 2014 by Steve Blum
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A foot of fiber is worth a mile of talk.

The California Public Utilities Commission has, again, made it clear that the top spending priority of the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) is better broadband infrastructure. In a unanimous decision yesterday, the CPUC blessed two new CASF-funded regional broadband consortia, in the process reaffirming that the program is about construction, not talk.

One, the North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium (NBNCBC) will get a total of $250,000, split over 2 years, to work toward improving broadband infrastructure in Sonoma, Mendocino, Marin and Napa Counties. That’s $47,000 less than the amount requested, which prompted a protest from the NBNCBC. In pointed (for the CPUC) language, yesterday’s resolution told the consortium to focus on supporting construction projects and not churning out paperwork…

It is not clear what would not be accomplished absent the funding that would jeopardize promoting broadband deployment within its region. The NBNCBC could consider reduced funding for goal no. 5, which focuses on an adoption report, since the proposed consortium itself does not intend to provide adoption services.

The commission also approved $300,000 for the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast, which will, according to the resolution, work towards an ultimate goal which “would involve the consortium seeking public and private funds in order to establish and upgrade the infrastructure” in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. Regional broadband consortia don’t directly build broadband infrastructure, instead identifying areas where service is substandard, recruiting ISPs willing to take advantage of those opportunities, and providing assistance in qualifying for CASF grants and loans.

The two year grant tops out at the maximum of $150,000 per year that’s been set for regional broadband consortia funded by CASF. Besides focusing solely on infrastructure development, the Pacific Coast proposal differed from the one submitted by the North Bay North Coast group in that the three counties were new to the consortia program. Two of the NBNCBC counties – Sonoma and Mendocino – were part of other regional consortia before splitting off.