Pressure to spend CASF money will grow in 2015

31 December 2014 by Steve Blum
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The new round of grant and loan proposals for the California Advanced Services Fund is remarkably different from the 2013 batch. Back then, 32 proposals were dumped on the CPUC all at once, ready or not. This time around, the application window will stay open until the money is gone, which means applicants can prioritise quality over deadline driven speed. And, it is hoped, the review process won’t be as clogged or as fraught – if an application is rejected now, it can be fixed and resubmitted. Before, a rejection was a death sentence, which tied decisions up in endless rewrites and negotiations.

One of the frequent criticisms of the CPUC is the length of time it takes to get things done. Particularly, the review and approval process for grant and loan requests from the California Advanced Services Fund has dragged on for years. Two projects, Bright Fiber and ViaSat – have been waiting for a decision since February 2013. With the changes already made, the hope is that decisions will come faster. Judging by incoming commission president Michael Picker’s annoyance with delays in the past, speed might be a higher priority.

So far, 3 new CASF project applications have come in. The 5 under review total about $39 million. Even if those were all funded at the requested level, there would still be about $120 million left in the kitty for new proposals. The legislature has given the CPUC until the end of 2015 to spend it. It’s up to Internet service providers – incumbents, big or small, or new independents –to come up with viable ways to do it.