Three California broadband projects head to a CPUC vote

3 September 2013 by Steve Blum
, , , , ,

Three projects proposed for grants from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) have made it through the review process and are scheduled to be voted on by the California Public Utilities Commission next month. Two of the grant proposals were VDSL2-based and submitted by TDS Telecom, one for $1.8 million in the Olinda area of Shasta County and the other for $2.1 million in the Winterhaven area of Imperial County. Sebastian, which took over the Foresthill Telephone Company, is asking for $117,000 for a fixed wireless system upgrade in Placer County.

CASF applications, as of 3 September 2013.

The draft resolutions were posted on the CPUC website earlier today, giving the minimum 30-day notice required before the scheduled vote by the commission on 3 October 2013. That date could change for any of the projects if one or more commissioners wants it delayed. But in the meantime, the public can comment on the grant proposals.

The requested funding ranges from $961 to $2,148 per household served. No one challenged the Foresthill project, although CPUC staff did ask Sebastian to run some mobile field tests to rule out possible conflicts. Verizon Wireless challenged the Olinda and Winterhaven projects, but didn’t submit any data to back up its complaint.

The $4 million tab for the three projects barely puts a dent in CASF. The commission is scheduled to consider a $10 million spiff for the Digital 395 project on Thursday. Taking previously approved grants and administrative costs into consideration, the available money would still total somewhere in the $130 to $135 million range even if it’s all approved. And there’s the possibility that the California legislature will add more money to CASF.

There are 23 other active CASF applications, totalling about $218 million. Some, like the $119 million middle mile project proposed for northern California by Golden Bear Broadband and the $11 million massive land grab by ViaSat, have generated reams of protests and will still need months to sort out. Most of the rest, though, should emerge from the review process – one way or the other – in the next few weeks, if not sooner.

Tellus Venture Associates assisted with several CASF proposals in the current round, so I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.