Saturday, June 07, 2008

California PUC set to adopt guidelines for broadband subsidies

The California Public Utilities Commission is set to adopt guidelines June 12 for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). CASF was established by the CPUC in December 2007 to subsidize the deployment of broadband infrastructure in high cost unserved and underserved areas of the state. Funding will be prioritized for projects targeted to areas currently with only dial-up service or satellite and then to build out facilities in underserved areas if funds are still available.

$100 million in CASF funding is available, derived from a 25 percent surcharge on telephone bills that's estimated to be five cents a month for the average customer. The CASF surcharge will be offset by an equal reduction in the California High Cost Fund-B surcharge created to subsidize deployment of basic voice telephone service

Applications for CASF funding will be considered beginning July 3, 2008. CPUC will subsidize 40 percent of the project costs. Both wireline and wireless providers are eligible to apply. Benchmark throughput is 3Mbs for downloads and 1Mbs for uploads.

Project funding will be awarded by the fall of 2008 and successful applicants will have two years to complete their projects. That likely means for Californians currently located in broadband black holes -- there are some 2 million of them in about 2,000 towns according to a report by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Broadband Task Force issued in January -- they'll have to wait at least until the fall of 2010 before they'll realize any benefit. The CASF funding was one of seven recommendations by the task force to increase broadband availability in California.

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