Frontier asks for CASF subsidy for Shasta County middle mile project

14 March 2016 by Steve Blum
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Right down the middle.

A grant application for a $546,000 subsidy from the California Advanced Services Fund was filed last week by Frontier Communications. It’s proposing to build a 12-mile fiber middle mile system in Shasta County, with the goal of injecting more bandwidth into existing DSL facilities that serve 1,200 homes in the Shingletown area…

These sites are currently fed with Ethernet over copper technology and the existing bandwidth is not capable of providing more than 3 Mbps download speeds and 768 Kbps upload speeds. The existing DSLAM’s at these sites are Ethernet capable and the fiber feed will allow for the use of ADSL2+ bonding technology.

The public version of Frontier’s proposal characterises it as a last mile project, but that’s not correct. It’s a classic middle mile build, with no indication that any last mile connections to homes or businesses will be otherwise upgraded.

It’s an increasingly common, and welcome, model in rural California. The California Public Utilities Commission approved a grant for Frontier last year, to boost speeds in Petrolia in Humboldt County via a beefed up microwave link, and it’s considering middle mile fiber proposals from Siskiyou Telephone and Ducor Telephone in Siskiyou and Tulare counties respectively.

I hope the CPUC looks favorably on all these grant requests, but it should also include open access requirements, as it has with middle mile subsidies it’s given to non-telcos. That means making dark fiber available on published terms to competitive Internet service providers and other customers that are big enough to make use of it. It might or might not mean much as a practical matter in communities as remote as Shingletown, but it’s an important public policy principle that justifies giving taxpayer dollars to private telecoms companies.