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Lumen Gets $400M Calif. Award; Agency Admits Middle-Mile Mistakes

California gave $400 million to Lumen to deploy open-access fiber by 2027 as part of the state's planned middle-mile network, the carrier said Wednesday. The California Department of Technology (CDT) broadband award is “great” for Californians and Lumen stakeholders alike,…

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said CEO Kate Johnson. California’s $6 billion broadband bill in 2021 charged CDT with building a 10,000-mile middle-mile network. CDT now has about 83% of the network under contract for construction and leases, Mark Monroe, Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative deputy director, said at a California Broadband Council meeting Wednesday. The CDT official responded to concerns, such as by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the state may no longer reach all areas that were promised. “Every segment throughout California is important," stressed Monroe. A phased approach to construction created confusion that segments had been reprioritized, he said. But work on a corridor running through Oakland never stopped, with preconstruction work expected to be completed next year and construction to immediately follow, he said. Monroe apologized for the temporary disappearance from CDT’s map of planned segments in Los Angeles’ Gateway Cities region, including Compton. Blaming a geographic information system glitch, Monroe said CDT republished the map less than 24 hours after realizing its error. “These areas remain a priority,” with preconstruction work expected to finish by December 2024. CDT will try to be more transparent about map changes that can occur when the department decides to use parallel routes “to provide quicker service through leasing,” added Monroe. Also, he noted that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has committed to adding middle-mile funding in the state budget. Meanwhile, the California Public Utilities Commission saw more interest for its new federal funding account for last-mile projects than the CPUC has ever seen for one of its grant programs, Commissioner Darcie Houck told the council. In the first cycle that closed Sept. 29, the agency received 483 grant requests for $4.6 billion. A 28-day challenge process began Monday; applicants will get 28 days to respond to objections. Houck said the CPUC may adopt rules for the $750 million broadband loan loss reserve program at its Nov. 2 meeting. It received comments on a proposed decision earlier this month (see 2310190042). The agency aims to take applications in Q1 2024 and make awards in Q2, she said. Also, the commissioner said to expect proposed revisions to the California Advanced Services Fund public housing program by year-end.