Twenty-seven CASF applications accepted, now open to challenge

12 February 2013 by Steve Blum
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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has posted the official list of thirty-one projects that are in the running for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) grants and loans. The total comes to about $256 million.

Four projects, totaling about $32 million, are listed as “pending”. That means there’s still some work to be done before the requests can be considered.

As of 12 February 2013.

The challenge clock is running on the other twenty-seven applications. Competing service providers who disagree with an applicant’s assertion that a given area is under or unserved can contest a project’s eligibility for funding. The CPUC extended the challenge window to 4 March 2013 for most, because of the large number of applications.

To help with the process, the CPUC fed the data submitted by applicants into its interactive availability map, so anyone who’s interested can see what level of service is proposed for where.

The applications that survive the challenge process will be scored and ranked, and then the CPUC will start at the top of the list and work down, handing out money until there’s no more to give. At this point, the $252 million grant total is way over the limit authorized by the legislature. Another $3.6 million in loans was requested, bringing the grand total to $256 million, but it’s a separate account.

By the time the applications are reviewed and ranked, there will probably only be about $75 to $80 million available for grants. The CPUC will collect another $75 to $80 million over the next three years, so the commissioners could decide to earmark future money for the current batch of applications, effectively ending the CASF infrastructure grant program. Unless the legislature raises the limit again.

But there are some problematic projects. In particular, the $119 million request for a 2,200 mile middle mile project in far northern California and the $11 million proposal for satellite service over the western half of the state. More on those two projects later. If the northern California project is tossed out, there would be enough to fund the rest over three years with several million left over. Leave it in but subtract out a few successful challenges and/or inadequate applications, and it still might be possible to fund everything that’s eligible.

Edited 25 February 2013: amounts adjusted to fix spreadsheet typo.

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.