New season for broadband infrastructure subsidies in California

21 July 2014 by Steve Blum
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It’s time to close the door on the last round of applications for broadband construction subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund. Of the 32 proposals submitted on 1 February 2013 – nearly a year and a half ago – 17 were funded for total of $48.6 million in grants and $127,000 in loans. The final two were approved by the CPUC in June – an FTTH project in Mono County and a fixed wireless system in Shasta County.

Twelve proposals didn’t make it, for a variety of reasons. Some were pulled because of competitive upgrades from incumbent service providers, others either didn’t have a ready-for-prime-time application with a supportable business case and/or valid eligibility claim, or were bumped in favor of another applicant for the same area. The total ask on the rejected projects was $170 million.

That leaves three projects, totalling $29.1 million in grants and loans still on the table, and still under review. Two of those – ViaSat at $11 million and Bright Fiber at $17 million – have run into a buzz saw of challenges from incumbent providers. The third one – a DSL upgrade in Madera and Fresno Counties proposed by Ponderosa – is relatively modest at $945,000 but has likewise stalled in the review process.

With the CPUC’s approval of a new timeline and rulebook for the CASF program, the next round is underway. The next application window will open on 1 December 2014, but it will stay open until the money runs out – when an application is submitted is relatively unimportant. All that matters is when it’s finally approved by the commission. Whether by design or default, the 3 unresolved applications have, for all practical purposes, been bumped into the next round.