Plumas and Lassen County broadband projects proposed for California subsidies

30 April 2019 by Steve Blum
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Mohawk vista

Applications for broadband infrastructure subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) are due tomorrow, but the Plumas-Sierra Electric Co-op (PSEC) wasn’t in a mood to wait. It submitted five project proposals on Saturday, totalling $12 million in grant requests.

PSEC serves Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties in northeastern California, and is one of three electrical service cooperatives in the state. It branched out into broadband service several years ago and has received both state and federal grants to build out its network.

Four of the proposals are for pure fiber-to-the-premise projects that would serve a total of 521 homes and 32 businesses in the Plumas County communities of Eureka-Johnsville, Keddie and Mohawk Vista, and Elysian Valley-Johnstonville in Lassen County. The cost per location is high, ranging from about $11,000 to $48,000 per home, and $11,000 to $44,000 per location (business and residential) overall.

All four proposals exceed the $9,300 per household cap set by the California Public Utilities Commission, which runs the CASF program. The projects could still be funded, but it will take a majority vote by the full commission to approve the applications.

The fifth project, for Lake Davis in Plumas County, uses a hybrid design – some homes would be served directly by fiber, others would rely on fixed wireless links. It would reach 185 homes and two businesses.

Each of the proposed projects includes middle mile fiber facilities, to connect to the Internet through PSEC’s core network.

These applications, and the others that are expected to drop tomorrow, are the first under the new CASF broadband infrastructure grant rules approved last year by the CPUC. It’ll be the first chance to see what kind of projects can be developed, and ultimately approved, in the new world created by the California legislature in 2017, when it bowed before the deep campaign cash pockets of AT&T, Frontier, Comcast and Charter, and passed assembly bill 1665. That law tipped California’s broadband subsidy playing field precipitously in favor of those deep pocketed incumbents. We’ll soon know if it was money well spent.

Project summaries:

Elysian Valley-Johnstonville
Lake Davis
Mohawk Vista