$500M California Fund for Public Broadband Infrastructure

The application window for the Loan Loss Reserve Program will be open from Tuesday, March 12, through Tuesday, April 9.

$500M California Fund for Public Broadband Infrastructure
Photo of northern California landscape by Harris Shiffman

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2024 – The application window for a $500-million California fund dedicated to providing more favorable borrowing rates and terms for local governments, tribes, and nonprofits to finance public broadband infrastructure projects was announced Friday.

The Loan Loss Reserve Program will begin accepting applications on March 12, with the deadline slated for April 9 at 4 p.m. Pacific Time. 

Created in 2021 through Senate Bill 156, the program encourages broadband deployment by local government agencies and nonprofit organizations by covering certain costs that may be barriers to entry, including debt issuance and credit enhancement.

The program will evaluate applications based on criteria, including the coverage requested, serving unserved areas, offering low-cost broadband plans, and investing in scalable fiber optic infrastructure. 

The program employs a specific scoring system to evaluate applicants:

  • Coverage Requested (50 points): Evaluated based on the percentage of LLP funds requested compared to eligible debt.
    • 50 points: coverage requested is ≤ 40%
    • 25 points: coverage requested is > 40% but ≤ 60%
    • 10 points: coverage requested is > 60% but ≤ 100%
  • Serves Unserved (50 points): Assesses whether the proposed project area will benefit unserved locations.
  • Offers Low-Cost Plan at 50/20+ (25 points): Considers if the application proposes to offer a low-cost broadband plan at 50/20 Mbps.
  • Infrastructure Life (25 points): Recognizes investments in scalable fiber optic infrastructure for future application solutions.

According to program guidance, eligible broadband projects under the program must reliably offer symmetrical speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second download and upload. In some cases, engineering limitations may allow for a minimum of 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.

The California Public Utilities Commission, the governing body of the program, has highlighted its focus on funding projects that will deliver public broadband networks. Providers must also adhere to CPUC’s open access middle-mile infrastructure requirements. 

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