CPUC Approves Fiber Project

Yesterday the CPUC approved Broadband Associates’ funding for building a second fiber line from Redding to Eureka with plans to serve the communities along the 299 corridor.

The project generated some controversy when  it was first made public. Some thought it a waste of money when lower cost technologies such as microwave and wi fi networks would be adequate. Others believe Broadband Associates incapable of carrying out the project. Still others have had problems with the funding process and even the concept of public/private partnerships.  However, from what I could tell, the proposal has overwhelming support from business, government and technology industry leaders in the region.

It’s interesting to note that 5 projects were approved yesterday but the press release only talks about 2 of them, Broadband Associates’ being one. The funds awarded totalled $8,047,552 and the fiber project alone will get $7.8 million of that. So, this is by far the most ambitious project to come out of this round of funding. It’s also curious that the press release discussed servicing the towns along 299, but made no mention of the potential alternative to the current single fiber route owned by AT&T. While serving the rural areas is certainly important, the vitality of the region continues to hang by that single strand. I think most of us are equally eager to see this how this project will improve that situation.

Broadband Back in Focus

Those of us who already have high speed access have a tendency to get complacent about broadband issues until the next fiber break happens. But some have been working diligently to find ways to improve our telecommunications infrastructure, not waiting for the next disaster and knowing many areas of the region remain un-served or under served. In one fell swoop, one project may solve many of these issues. The California Public Utilities Commission appears prepared to award over $7 million to a company called Broadband Associates through the California Advanced Services Fund to build a second fiber line from I – 5 to Eureka along the Highway 299 corridor.

Other proposed projects such as the IP Networks was working on in conjunction with PG&E have not come to fruition. That project would have used PG&E towers closer to much less populated Highway 36 corridor and, as far as I know made no provisions for access point along the way. The 299 route is more difficult and more expensive but the project includes access for wireless providers to service communities from Blue Lake to Weaverville.

There has been some strong opinions expressed on the RTC mailing list about the wisdom and viability of this project and why we haven’t heard much about it until just now. I think many of the concerns over transparency and accountability should be address to the CPUC itself.

Yesterday I spoke with Michael Brinskele, CEO of Broadband Associates about their proposal. Michael has had an interest in our region for quite a while. He attended the last Broadband Forum and has been in discussion with CENIC and people from Redwood Coast Connect. Their application for the CASF funds has come after looking carefully at the region’s issues and opportunities.

From our conversation I felt he is quite aware of the challenges such a project holds both for the build itself and its economic viability. He believes Broadband Associates has a strong business plan to make this work.  However, since there is still a great deal of planning to do before the February 20 deadline they are purposively not making any public noise about this project in order to not raise expectations or over promise. On the other hand he is pleased there is great interest in this project and has expressed to me an openness to any questions or concerns from people who would like to learn more.  Those questions can be addressed to info@broadbandassoc.com. 299 Fiber Project Area

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