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California Public Utilities Commission Considering Two Last Mile Projects

February 18, 2014

California Public Utilities Commission Considering Two Last Mile Projects

By Michael Guta
TMCnet Contributing Writer

The final leg of the communication network that delivers connectivity to retail customers is referred to as the last mile in the telecommunications industry. As the number of fiber optic networks continue to increase in the face of growing consumer demand for gigabit speeds, fiber to the home (FTTH) connections replacing copper in coaxial cables are becoming the norm. Because the established infrastructure has to be replaced with this new technology, however, the associated costs often prohibit deployment. But service providers across the country are facing pressure to use this technology in order to provide the ultra-high Internet speeds consumers demand.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is considering two draft resolutions for the approval of a total of $343,000 in grants and loans from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to pay for the building of part of the infrastructure that will be needed to provide 100 Mbps broadband service in Monterey County for two underserved communities. The projects are part of a proposal by Surf Net Communications, an Internet service provider in the Santa Cruz region.

The first location, situated in the mouth of the Salinas Valley, consists of a group of 120 homes in the Monterey Dunes community. The plan would require upgrading the existing copper wires. The second location consists of 300 homes in the Paradise Road area, and for these installations, the plan is to bring fiber-to-the-home service.

These projects rely on a 91 mile middle fiber network, which will be undertaken by Sunesys LLC if the subsidies are successfully raised and approved by the CPUC and the CASF.

As a middle-mile project, the beneficiaries will be Internet service providers and institutional users, which makes it a difficult case to make to the residents living in these depressed communities. The goal of the project has been championed by many different organizations and endorsed by local governments, including the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, but the project still faces an uphill battle.

Because of the lack of resources Sunesys is asking the CASF to fund at least 83 percent of the total project cost of $13.3 million. If the commissioners don't approve the exception for this funding, the company will be limited to the arrangement that is currently in place, which will only subsidize $7.4 million. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee
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