Innovative bond financing proposed for Marin FTTH project

5 July 2016 by Steve Blum
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A fiber to the home project for 216 residences in the Marin County community of Nicasio will be partially funded by a selling bonds to investors, if everything works out as planned. The first step is up to the California Public Utilities Commission, which will be considering a $1.5 million grant from the California Advanced Services Fund to pay for 60% of the cost. The remaining 40% will be raised via a type of simplified private bond offering to financially qualified individuals and organisations that’s allowed by California law.

The draft resolution in front of the commission now would give the applicant, Inyo Networks, six months to raise the money. It describes the financing vehicle as “innovative” and notes that “if successful, this funding mechanism could become a viable alternative for others to follow”.

In a joint reply, Inyo Networks and the Nicasio Land Owners Association ask for a year to get it done and position it as an otherwise ordinary transaction…

This mechanism has been in place for some time and has repeatedly been used by start-ups throughout the state. What is innovative is that it has not yet been applied to community infrastructure in California — specifically broadband — and in that regard has considerable promise for communities to self-invest to close the digital divide. In the future, this might be the only self-funding mechanism for communities.

The project area (but presumably not the grant funding) includes George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, which means a couple of things. First, there’s middle mile connectivity – Zayo Networks has a 288-strand fiber line serving the ranch – and second, it might not be too difficult to find qualified local investors with sufficient interest and cash to buy the bonds.