California authorizes funding for broadband expansion


Last month, CivSource reported on some fireworks between municipal broadband advocates and the telco lobby happening in the Eastern Sierra region of California. Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) conditionally approved an additional $9.9 million of California Advanced Services Funds (CASF) to complete the 530-mile Digital 395 project in the area.

The approval comes after a broader fight where telecos argued that the area was “overbuilt” leading the local broadband task force to fight back with facts. Yesterday’s approval will provide necessary funding to supplement a $19.3 million federal stimulus grant and continue work.

The project will lay fiber from Barstow to San Bernadino, California and onward to the Nevada line. An estimated 30,000 households, businesses and anchor institutions will benefit from the expansion.

The additional funding will go toward unforeseen environmental impact costs, adding more poles and dealing with unique geographical challenges in the region. 41 agencies have been involved in the project which stretches through some environmentally sensitive land as well as Native American reservation land adding to cost overruns.

The state looked to the federal government for additional funding through the BTOP/Stimulus program, however, because the realities of California geography and local law were not included in the original application, funding had to come from the state. The state granted the funds when it realized that much of the overruns went unforeseen during the application process.