IE11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Bills to Fund, Ease Broadband Rollout Head to Governor

Two key pieces of broadband legislation cleared the statehouse Thursday and are headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for signatures. If signed, the bills would take effect immediately, streamlining the permitting process for broadband infrastructure projects and bolstering funding.

Broadband fibers
Flickr/Tech Alert.pK
Two related broadband bills that would help guide California’s drive to provide Internet access to more residents cleared the statehouse Thursday, roughly a day ahead of deadline.

State Senate Bill 4, from state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, the Broadband for All Act, and Assembly Bill 14, from Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, the Internet for All Act, were both “greenlighted” by the Legislature, Gonzalez’s office said late Thursday in a news release. That means the bills — which were designed to be contingently enacted — are headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk where he will have until Oct. 10 to sign or veto them. The move by the Legislature comes just a day before its Friday deadline to pass bills — near the end of a session some have called exceptionally quiet. Among the takeaways:

  • SB 4 would compel the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) to coordinate with state, local and national entities to find “ways to facilitate streamlining of local land use approvals and construction permit processes” for broadband infrastructure deployment and connectivity-related projects. It would also set a goal for the California Advanced Services Fund’s Broadband Infrastructure Grant Account of approving funding for infrastructure projects that “provide broadband access to no less than 98% of California households” by Dec. 31, 2032 — adding six years to the deadline, previously set at 2026. An urgency statute, the bill would take effect immediately if signed.
  • AB 14 extends a CASF funding mechanism a decade beyond its 2022 terminus, authorizing the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to impose a surcharge aimed at collecting $330,000 for CASF through Dec. 31, 2032. It would also authorize the CPUC to require Internet service providers to report on “free, low-cost, income-qualified, or affordable Internet service” plans they advertise. And it revises an existing rate recovery mechanism for a deaf and disabled telecommunications program, requiring the CPUC to “administer a surcharge” to collect up to $100 million annually through Jan. 1, 2025, “subject to an annual appropriation of moneys by the Legislature,” to allow equipment and service providers to the program to recover costs as incurred. It, too, is an urgency statute and is “contingent” with SB 4, meaning both must become law in order for AB 14 to take effect. Gonzalez said in an email to Techwire that both bills “will complement recent broadband investments and will ensure last-mile projects are realized and that we have long-term sustainable funding.”
  • Asked about the bills’ potential to create opportunities for IT vendors, the state senator said their signing “will mean technology entrepreneurs and IT companies will be empowered to innovate and contribute to advancing digital equity in our state.”
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.