CEQA Friction Delays El Dorado Broadband Two Years

by Russ Steele

In 2012 a citizen of Greenwood places a petition in the Greenwood Hardware Store requesting broadband for the community. Over 50 people signed the petition. In December of 2012 Brent Smith, then SEDCorp CEO, sent me a copy of the survey, which I put in an Excel Spreadsheet and plotted the information using Arc/GIS Online. This map was made available to the ISPs in El Dorado County, including Cal.Net. The Gold Country Broadband Consortial held a public meeting in the Greenwood to confirm the demand for community-wide broadband.

In March of 2015 Cal.Net submitted a proposal to the California Public Utility Commission for a CSAF grant to construct the last mile fixed-wireless network to provide broadband Internet in North El Dorado County, including the community of Greenwood. See Calnet_El_Dorado_N_Project_Summary [Funding later increased to cover CEQA Cost]

Greenwood_plot12-2012
Greenwood Hardware Store Petition

On January 14, 2016, the Commission adopted Resolution T- 17497, conditionally authorizing a CASF grant of $1,139,755 to Cal.Net to construct the El Dorado North broadband project, subject to the Commission’s completion of CEQA review. The grant represented 60 percent of the total estimated project cost of $1,899,591.

This week, 27 April of 2018, the CPUC released the money to start the project.

Resolution T-17603: Authorizing the release of California Advanced Services Fund grant monies to Cal.net, Inc. (U-1340-C) to construct the El Dorado North broadband project; and approving the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act for the El Dorado North broadband project.

Broadband in Greenwood is and the other communities: Quintette, Buckeye, Volcanoville, Fornis, Meadowbrook and Garden Valley covered in the proposal is still a year or more away.

The need identified in 2012, it will most likely be 2019 or 2020 before the good people of Greenwood get access to broadband, in a state that brags about its technical accomplishments. It took two-plus years to accomplish an environmental review for the project, requiring Cal.Net to invest hours and hours of human resources while the CEQA process ground slowly forward. Smaller companies with fewer resources than Cal.Net would most likely have abandoned the project. Cal.Net dedication to the community is extraordinary.

If I lived in Greenwood, I would be livid, waiting seven years for broadband to my community would more than I could deal with.  Technology which would increase economic development and jobs in the County delayed.  Our political leaders need to look at the process, as seven years it too long to wait, in a state that brags to others about its technology. Technology is not the issue; the issue is regulatory friction. Something our political leaders can change.

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