Wednesday, February 04, 2009

California broadband nonprofit hopes for share of federal economic stimulus dollars

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), a San Francisco-based nonprofit that helps fund projects to improve broadband access in California using $60 million in seed funding provided by AT&T and Verizon as a condition of the telcos' recent M&A activity, is hoping to get additional funding from the federal economic stimulus legislation.

Expected to be finalized this month, the legislation calls for between $6 billion and $9 billion (House and Senate versions of the legislation, respectively) in grants, loans and tax credits to fund the build out of wireline and wireless broadband telecommunications infrastructure. The administration of President Barack Obama has characterized the broadband stimulus funding as a down payment toward the administration's overall goal of providing universal access to broadband throughout the U.S.

"We want California to be poised to take optimum advantage of the stimulus package," CETF President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak said at the CETF's Sacramento Regional Broadband Roundtable hosted today by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments as well as several other local institutions. "We want this region to be well deployed."

If it receives federal stimulus funding this year, CETF's role subsidizing the deployment of broadband infrastructure could overshadow that of the California Public Utilities Commission. The CPUC's $100 million California Advanced Services Fund provides a 40 percent match to subsidize broadband infrastructure build out but has not attracted the level of interest hoped for by regulators.

The 3-hour roundtable discussion was attended by about 70 people representing a wide variety of individuals and organizations with an interest in expanding broadband access, applications and adoption.

El Dorado County was well represented by Carol Anne Ogdin representing El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting, Woodrow Deloria of the El Dorado County Transportation Commission, Jason Harm of the El Dorado County Office of Education, Tom Straling of the El Dorado County IT Department and your blogger.

I was pleased at McPeak's obvious zeal to get broadband infrastructure deployed as quickly as possible to enable the various applications and associated beneficial impacts discussed at the event including reducing transportation demand through telework and online commerce -- a clear benefit in this era of constrained transportation funding and strapped county budgets -- and allowing remote medical consultations for individuals living in rural areas who lack easy access to medical providers and specialists. McPeak and her staff clearly understand a salient point raised by Ogdin: that it's far cheaper (and greener) to move bytes than bodies.


David said...

Their is a legitimate fear is that CETF is just a Trojan horse for ATT. They are a foundation that is poised to be a branch of an incumbent.

People should follow how closely CETF works with/for ATT. ATT has been unable to provide advance broadband for the state. Now CETF is going to allow them to build out a network that ATT will own for 100 years with taxpayer funds.

CETF should be focused on community and municipal ownership of the new infrastructure. ATT and others can lease access but these funds should be used for a network that we own..

Carol Anne said...
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