North coast, eastern Sierra and San Joaquin regions up for California broadband consortia grants

23 September 2016 by Steve Blum
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That’s pretty much the speed of broadband too, in these regions.

Three more regional broadband consortia projects trickled onto the California Public Utilities Commission’s agenda for next month. A draft resolution that, if approved, would give a total of $493,000 from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to broadband consortia on the northern coast, the eastern Sierra and the San Joaquin Valley regions.

The Redwood Coast Connect Broadband Consortium, based at Humboldt State University, and the San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium, based at Fresno State, are up for their second round of financing – each received $450,000 grants in the first round, which started in 2011.

The San Joaquin consortium would get $180,000 for a three year program that’ll focus on digital literacy classes and broadband marketing efforts aimed at signing up 300 new Internet subscribers annually. The project will also work on improving connectivity and deployment of new technology in the health care and agricultural industries in the San Joaquin Valley. The region includes San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties, and the western half of Kern County.

Three counties – Del Norte, Humboldt and Trinity – comprise the Redwood Coast region, and the focus there is on infrastructure deployment. Assuming the $208,000 grant is approved, the consortium will have two years of funding to work on the Digital 299 middle mile project, currently under review for a $51 million CASF infrastructure grant, as well as projects along U.S. 101between Eureka and Crescent City and in the Klamath River area. The consortium also plans to bird dog AT&T’s planned – or at least promised – infrastructure upgrades.

The third group, the Inyo Mono Broadband Consortium, plans to produce maps, databases and other information that can be used by service providers to improve broadband access, and specifically to make greater use of the open access Digital 395 middle mile fiber route that runs the length of the region. They’re up for a $105,000, two year grant. In the last round of CASF consortia grants, Inyo and Mono counties were included in the Eastern Sierra consortium with eastern Kern County; this time around the group split into two consortia.

The consortia grant proposal for eastern Kern County is still in the hopper along with eight other pending applications. A total of 15 consortia grant proposals were submitted in January. Three others were approved last month. Assuming commissioners approve these latest three grants, that’ll mean it’s taken nine months to process six grants, with no firm time table for the remaining nine. By contrast, the CPUC was able to process 14 consortia proposals – asking for twice the money – in less than six months during the 2011 round.

Draft resolution for Redwood Coast, San Joaquin and Inyo Mono consortia grants, posted 21 September 2016

Update: the CPUC has posted a revised version of the draft resolution, you can see it here.