Military homes proposed for California broadband grant

24 September 2016 by Steve Blum
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High density, low service.

A broadband subsidy plan for Vandenberg Air Force Base could bring fiber to the home (or at least to the building) service to military housing there. Renegade Technologies, a Lompoc-based information technology company, submitted an application for a $460,000 grant and a $154,000 loan from the California Advanced Services Fund, proposing to “provide advanced Internet access services to all dwelling units in residential areas of Vandenberg Air Force Base including apartments & dormitories by installing a new fiber-to-the-building (FTTB) infrastructure”.

Raw U.S. census data from 2010 shows 1,035 housing units on the base, with a total population of 3,338 people. The housing area targeted by the application was flagged as underserved in a three-county study I did for the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast, based on wireline service reports filed with the Federal Communications Commission. Before it sold its wireline systems in California to Frontier Communications, Verizon claimed to provide DSL service there. California Public Utilities Commission field testing indicates that mobile broadband is poor to non-existent.

But as the report also points out, assessing broadband availability in military housing is problematic. Often, service is provided by base contractors and isn’t reported to the FCC. Network tracking information maintained by incumbent carriers might or might not account for the unique characteristics of military communities. Independent providers generally aren’t present – for obvious reasons, a company can’t just drive onto a military base and start installing communications gear wherever it wants. And census data is often murky – definitions designed to fit typical civilian housing types don’t always match up with military practice.

The publicly released application summary is very light on details, so it’s not clear whether Renegade actually has a contract to serve those homes or, indeed, any other kind of relationship with the Air Force, or if it’s just cranking up a bid.