Thursday, July 30, 2009

California local governments, nonprofits eligible for 90% broadband stimulus subsidization

California local governments and nonprofit entities that can successfully navigate the complex, 121-page set of rules governing the first round of grants providing up to 80 percent subsidization of broadband infrastructure build outs under the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program -- and do so in the just two weeks remaining before the Aug. 14 application deadline -- could get as much as 90 percent of their project costs subsidized.

To leverage the federal broadband stimulus funds, the California Public Utilities Commission had previously approved an order expanding its subsidy program for broadband infrastructure, the California Advanced Services Fund, to provide up to half of the 20 percent match required of regulated telecom providers proposing BTOP projects.

Expanding the CASF funding to include local governments, telecom cooperatives and other non commercial providers required legislative authorization. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the legislation, AB 1555, into law July 29. An urgency measure, the bill takes effect immediately.

It remains to be seen if any such projects will be proposed given BTOP rules that make it difficult to qualify projects and give incumbent providers effective veto power, particularly in areas deemed "underserved" under the guidelines.

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