Wide swing on costs for California broadband subsidy proposals, for fiber and copper

12 May 2020 by Steve Blum
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Swing dance

Of the 52 applications for broadband infrastructure grants from the California Advanced Services Fund, 23 are for fiber to the premise (FTTP) builds of one kind or another, 16 are hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) projects, all submitted by Charter Communications, and 13 would be for fixed wireless facilities.

The least expensive proposals are, naturally enough, fixed wireless projects, most of which are in the $1,500 per home range. It’s probably no coincidence that the California Public Utility Commission’s benchmark price for wireless subsidies is also $1,500 per home.

Three of the proposed FTTP projects include fixed wireless add ons, to extend coverage to outlying homes. The numbers for each aren’t always broken out in the published project summaries, so my dollars per home unit number lumps them all together. You’d think that the combo FTTP/wireless projects would have lower costs per home than pure FTTP builds – wireless is a lot cheaper to deploy than fiber. But that isn’t the case – the average cost for pure FTTP projects is $28,000 per home, while the combo builds come in at an average of $41,000 per home.

The reason for that isn’t completely clear, but it’s worth noting that all three reach into areas that cover a lot of sparsely populated ground. There’s also wide variance. The Hoopa Valley project in Humboldt County proposed by Hunter Communications is the least expensive at $6,900 per home. The published summary implies that the majority of last mile connections will be wireless. At the other end of the spectrum, the Mendocino County proposal, also by Hunter Communications, comes in at $49,000 per home. According to the summary, about ten percent of the homes reached by the project will get service via a wireless connection.

The cost of the 20 pure FTTP projects varies widely, from a low of $8,800 per home for Race Communications’ Gigafy Arbuckle proposal in Colusa County, to $95,000 per home for Frontier Communications’ build in Cuyama, in eastern Santa Barbara County. The cost of that project includes 82 miles of much needed middle mile fiber that connects Santa Maria on the coast to Maricopa in Kern County.

The most expensive project on a per home basis, though, is an old school copper and fiber HFC cable build, proposed by Charter Communications in the in a Moorpark neighborhood in Ventura County. That would cost $117,000 per home. On the other hand, Charter is also applying for a $1,500 per home grant in Los Angeles County, which is the least expensive wireline project in the hopper, and only three bucks a home more than the cheapest wireless proposal.

CASF Project Proposals – 4 May 2020 Grant Application Window

Project Applicant Grant
$/HU County Tech
Bella Vista Charter $715,356 60 $11,923 Shasta HFC
Brookside Charter $933,563 243 $3,842 Los Angeles HFC
Country Meadows Charter $2,165,515 314 $6,897 San Bernardino HFC
Darlene Road Charter $815,967 7 $116,567 Ventura HFC
El Dorado Estates Charter $1,477,032 276 $5,352 Ventura HFC
Foothill Terrace Charter $489,513 327 $1,497 Los Angeles HFC
Kingswood Estates Charter $1,210,006 120 $10,083 Placer HFC
Los Alisos Charter $1,299,530 451 $2,881 Orange HFC
Monterey Manor Charter $796,198 92 $8,654 San Bernardino HFC
Mountain Shadows Charter $2,006,811 132 $15,203 San Bernardino HFC
Oxnard Pacific Charter $1,725,964 171 $10,093 Ventura HFC
Plaza Village Charter $658,436 178 $3,699 Orange HFC
River Oaks Charter $829,462 45 $18,432 San Benito HFC
Riverbank Charter $299,115 43 $6,956 Stanislaus HFC
Soboda Springs Charter $983,817 249 $3,951 Riverside HFC
Villa Montclair Charter $548,279 64 $8,567 San Bernardino HFC
Butte Yuba Digital Path $872,761 582 $1,500 Butte, Yuba Wireless
Fresno County Digital Path $448,349 299 $1,499 Fresno Wireless
Glenn County Digital Path $361,500 241 $1,500 Glenn Wireless
Lake County Digital Path $123,000 82 $1,500 Lake Wireless
Mendocino County Digital Path $138,000 92 $1,500 Mendocino Wireless
Plumas Lassen Digital Path $865,000 577 $1,499 Plumas, Lassen Wireless
Sacramento County Digital Path $230,000 154 $1,494 Sacramento Wireless
Sierra County Digital Path $241,000 161 $1,497 Sierra Wireless
Siskiyou County Digital Path $138,000 92 $1,500 Siskiyou Wireless
Sutter Placer Digital Path $418,433 277 $1,511 Sutter Wireless
Tehama County Digital Path $935,976 624 $1,500 Tehama Wireless
Central Coast Etheric $3,180,330 1,976 $1,609 Monterey, San Benito Wireless
Crescent City Frontier $1,586,885 134 $11,842 Del Norte FTTP
Cuyama Frontier $12,462,755 131 $95,136 Kern, Santa Barbara FTTP
Garberville Frontier $3,776,254 106 $35,625 Humboldt FTTP
Herlong Frontier $7,668,801 273 $28,091 Lassen FTTP
Knights Landing Frontier $4,590,845 104 $44,143 Colusa, Sutter, Yolo FTTP
Lake Isabella Frontier $9,595,168 405 $23,692 Kern FTTP
Mad River Frontier $8,169,979 203 $40,246 Humboldt, Trinity FTTP
Northeast Phase 2 Frontier $10,358,969 502 $20,635 Plumas, Tehama FTTP
Piercy Frontier $7,797,273 805 $9,686 Mendocino FTTP
Smith River Frontier $1,428,479 55 $25,972 Del Norte FTTP
Hoopa Valley Hunter $8,233,340 1,198 $6,873 Humboldt FTTP, wireless
Mendocino County Hunter $290,327,940 5,870 $49,460 Mendocino FTTP, wireless
Long Valley Plumas Sierra $4,118,255 54 $76,264 Plumas FTTP
Mohawk Valley Plumas Sierra $2,271,039 54 $42,056 Plumas FTTP
Portola Plumas Sierra $2,587,677 85 $30,443 Plumas FTTP
Scott Road Plumas Sierra $4,307,475 88 $48,949 Lassen, Sierra FTTP
Sierra Valley Plumas Sierra $5,123,342 283 $18,104 Plumas, Sierra FTTP, wireless
Southern Lassen Plumas Sierra $13,630,662 868 $15,704 Lassen FTTP
Gigafy Arbuckle Race $4,241,181 480 $8,836 Colusa FTTP
Gigafy Backus 2 Race $4,702,649 266 $17,679 Kern FTTP
Gigafy Nevada City Race $6,154,776 499 $12,334 Nevada FTTP
Gigafy Williams Race $6,758,805 588 $11,495 Colusa FTTP
Sonoma/Napa Web Perception $1,450,697 504 $2,878 Napa. Sonoma Wireless
West Sonoma County WiConduit $81,886,095 1,342 $61,018 Sonoma FTTP
Total $528,136,253 22,826 $23,137

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium (CCBC) supported Charter’s San Benito County proposal and assisted Etheric Networks with its application. The Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium (CCABC) assisted DigitalPath. I assisted the CCBC and the CCABC, and also kibitzed on other projects. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.