Crowley/Swall will still be underserved even after broadband installation
Technology changes rapidly, and in the case of the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), the rules for technology funding are changing as well.
Last July, Verizon applied for a CASF grant to help fund broadband service to the communities of Crowley Lake and Swall Meadows. Verizon is required by the California Public Utilities Commission to complete this project by January 2013, according to Mono County’s Digital 395 Project Manager Nate Greenberg.
On June 12, Verizon received notification that CASF would approve $329,040 of funding for Verizon to complete the project. However, Greenberg reported, since the time Verizon applied in 2011, “changes have been made to the CASF program and its guidelines.” These changes mostly relate to the speed benchmarks.
One year ago, guidelines stated communities with internet speeds of 3 mbps (megabits per second) down and 1 mbps up were considered served. These are the guidelines under which Verizon currently plans to install the Crowley/Swall broadband.
However, under the new guidelines, these speeds would still leave the area in underserved status, according to Greenberg. Current CASF guidelines require 6 mbps down and 1.5 mbps up.
“We are trying to ensure the best possible service in Swall and Crowley,” Greenberg explained, which is why he came before the Mono County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to request approval of a letter to the CPUC to request that it also require Verizon to implement speeds according to the current CASF guidelines.
To put speeds in context, Supervisor Byng Hunt asked Greenberg to compare the speeds proposed by Verizon for implementation in Crowley and Swall to those in Mammoth.
“Will this bring the service there up to our [Mammoth’s] same level of lousy service?” Hunt asked.
“It will bring it up to par, maybe a little better,” Greenberg said.
The letter also requested that the community of Paradise be included in the required coverage area since it was left out of the original resolution requiring Verizon to complete this project.
The Board unanimously approved, 4-0, (Supervisor Larry Johnston was absent) the letter with one issue left on the table.
Greenberg pointed out that if Verizon moves forward using the CASF grant funding at the lower speeds, Crowley and Swall would be pigeonholed into underserved status for three years, according to the requirements of the grant. This could be a concern with the infrastructure that may soon be made available through Digital 395.
“This is a short-term solution that closes the door to any other last-mile provider services for three years,” Greenberg explained. He requested that the County discuss the three-year waiting period with CPUC prior to the CPUC meeting on July 12.
The Board reviewed and discussed a proposed graffiti ordinance. Supervisor Hap Hazard had requested that County Counsel and the Code Compliance Department create this ordinance when it was discovered that there was nothing in place to deal with graffiti offenders. The Board introduced the ordinance and requested that staff revise it slightly to include some language about how to deal with graffiti on properties where the owners are not in town.
According to CAO Jim Arkens, with the departure of Mono County Assessor Jody Henning as well as Assistant Assessor Chris Lyon, the Mammoth Assessor’s office has been closed. “It is too tough to have both offices [Bridgeport and Mammoth] open right,” Arkens explained. “The closure will help save some money as well.”
In other Arkens news, the Board approved a two-year employment contract with the CAO with a 4-0 vote. According to Finance Director Brian Muir, there are no changes in compensation in the latest contract. The fiscal impact to the County for 2012/13, according to the agenda is $228,083, of which $171,216 is salary, $33,203 is the employer portion of PERS, and $23,664 is the cost of benefits.
The Board also approved, 4-0, several items in preparation for budget hearings, including a proposed temporary budget of $56,909,400. Budget hearing dates have been set for Aug. 27-29.