Click for the full map and RFP.
“We’re in contract negotiations with Praxis now, and we hope to have a contract by February 10th”, Brandon Shults, the information services director for Inyo County, announced yesterday at the Eastern Sierra Connect Regional Broadband Consortium’s annual conference in Ridgecrest. He was talking about the 21st Century Obsidian Project, an ambitious effort to build a fiber to the home system down the western half of Inyo County – in other words, the Owens Valley.
Praxis is the company behind the Digital 395 middle mile fiber project, which runs north to south through the project area. It was one of two companies that submitted plausible responses to the request for proposal Inyo County floated last year. Responsibility for putting the funding together, and then building and running the system would fall to Praxis, but not ownership or end user service. According to the RFP…
It is required that the network be an Open Access network. At the time of this request the County expects a three-layer model: the County will own the infrastructure; the selected respondent will manage, operate, and maintain the network; and services will be provided by third-party retailers.
There’s just under 8,000 homes in Inyo. All but a relative handful are in the project area, with the town of Bishop accounting for about two-thirds.
The RFP left the problem of paying for the system up to the bidder…
The County is aware of potential funding from sources such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), the venture capital fund Govtech, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the iBank, locally issued bonds and crowd-sourcing such as that facilitated though various frameworks (funded.com, croudfunded.com, indiegogo.com, etc.) and other sources.
The County anticipates that respondents will have experience developing business cases as well as identifying and securing funding for projects of similar constitution. The County expects that the selected respondent will work with the County to articulate business cases and identify and secure funding whether from the County, the respondent, or a combination thereof.
Shults didn’t give any details about the funding or the business model under discussion. The contract hasn’t been finalised, so that’s to be expected. Praxis has come through on long shot proposals before: Digital 395 was nearly completely paid for by grants, about $80 million from the federal stimulus program and about $30 million from the California Advanced Services Fund.