SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. January 11, 2019 – Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission) voted to approve the purchase of Bright Fiber Network, Inc. (Bright Fiber) by Race Telecommunications, Inc. (Race), giving the green light to a $26.8 million dollar fiber-to-the-home build, servicing 1,941 households in western Nevada County. The project was approved with a unanimous 4-0 vote.
Nevada County leaders attended today’s Commission meeting in San Francisco to give statements in support of the transfer including District I Supervisor Heidi Hall, Nevada County Executive Officer Alison Lehman, Nevada County CIO Steve Monaghan, Sierra Business Council Vice President of Business Innovation Kristen York, and Nevada County Board Analyst Jeff Thorsby.
“We are very excited that the Commission voted unanimously to allow Race to move forward with broadband expansion in Nevada County,” said District I Supervisor Heidi Hall. “This has been a long time coming and will be a game changer for the people, businesses, schools and public safety institutions in Nevada County.”
The Commission’s original California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) grant for the project was awarded to Bright Fiber in December 2015, but was delayed by other federal grant developments and Bright Fiber’s search for financing for required matching funds. In June 2018, Race announced its planned acquisition of Bright Fiber, which it will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Race to complete and manage the project. A successful Internet Service Provider that has received ten, and completed nine, Commission rural broadband projects in the state, Race will provide all necessary financing and bring deep technical and managerial expertise to the Bright Fiber project. “It’s been a ten-year journey to arrive at the point where construction can finally begin on this transformational gigabit fiber project in an area of rural Nevada County, where broadband Internet access is severely limited,” said John Paul, the President of Bright Fiber. ”My neighborhood champions, the hundreds of project supporters and I are simply thrilled and grateful that the Commission approved Race taking the helm and completing Bright Fiber’s vision to bring our community into the Information Age.”
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Nevada County Executive Officer Alison Lehman added, “The County has great confidence in Race due to their expertise and proven track record of completing many other broadband projects in rural communities. Last year, the County Board of Supervisors and City Council of both Nevada City and Grass Valley all passed resolutions showing their support and strong political will to bring broadband to Nevada County. The unanimous vote by the Commission today is a tremendous step forward in a project that the Board has continually supported since 2013.” To contain costs that steeply rose since the project’s original application in 2013, Bright Fiber and Race proposed an amended project that is 25% underground with 75% aerial installation, meaning that the fiber will be attached to existing poles similar to telephone and electric facilities. The Commission reviewed and approved these changes to the broadband project, including a $69,534 reduction in the CASF grant, now amended to $16,086,789. The revised total cost of the project will be $26,811,315. The Commission found that the lack of reliable and affordable broadband in the project area remains the case today, and this transfer allows the project to be completed. Under Assembly Bill 1665, the Commission is working to provide broadband to 98% of the residents in the state by region.
“It is exciting to see our county moving into the 21st century by bringing fiber to the home,” said Steve Monaghan, CIO of Nevada County, who has been working with the Commission and Bright Fiber to bring broadband to Nevada County since this project’s origins. “This is a monumental step that puts us at the forefront of internet access for a rural California county.”
Kristen York, Vice President of Business Innovation from the Sierra Business Council, adds, “Bringing broadband to Nevada County will provide the bandwidth and speeds necessary for many of our local businesses. I am particularly excited for our small business community who will be able to do business more effectively with expanded broadband access.”
The Commission granted an extension of the original deadline for construction to May 2020. Race has already completed the engineering for the amended project and said it will immediately begin the permitting process with the local authorities and seek to complete the project within the required timeframe.
“Race is humbled and grateful that the Commission has moved quickly to approve this transfer of control of Bright Fiber and review the needed CASF project changes so that Race can construct this important project for the community,” said Raul Alcaraz, President of Race. “Our team at Race has been blessed to have a successful track record of CASF projects, and we feel confident we can deliver a reliable, fast and affordable broadband system.”
Race and Bright Fiber will hold a Town Hall meeting for the community in the evening on Wednesday, January 30th to describe the amended project to interested community members and to answer any questions. The location and time of the Town Hall will be announced shortly.