Broadband, Tech Modernization Bills Clear Key Hurdle

Gov. Gavin Newsom has made broadband expansion a significant part of his proposed state budget, and at least three pieces of related legislation recently survived a crucial deadline in the Legislature.

Several pieces of technology and innovation legislation have survived two key recent deadlines, as the state Legislature continues to critically assess proposed bills this session.

The proposed laws, which pertain to broadband, Internet access, technology modernization and data, have thus far survived appropriations committees in their houses of origin – which scrutinize bills with potential financial impacts of $50,000 or more – and, on Friday, the yearly deadline for bills to be passed out of their original houses. Among the takeaways:

  • State Senate Bill 4, from state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, the Broadband for All Act, aims to ensure “continuous funding and ... critically needed reforms to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) program administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC),” according to her office. Among its goals, it would require the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) to work with state and local governments on streamlining land use approvals and construction permitting for broadband infrastructure projects. It would also extend the CASF timeline to Dec. 31, 2032, to “approve funding for infrastructure projects that will provide broadband access to no less than 98 percent of California households,” prioritizing the unserved. The bill cleared the state Senate on June 2.
    “This is an important milestone for the bill’s advancement, and I am looking forward to continuing efforts to move this critical legislation forward as it goes into the Assembly for a vote,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
  • Assembly Bill 14, from Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, the Internet for All Act, would “authorize local educational agencies to report to the department their pupils’ estimated needs for computing devices and Internet connectivity adequate for at-home learning.” It would also authorize county supervisors to acquire, build or operate the broadband or other communications services they need to obtain “federal or state support for the acquisition, construction, improvement, maintenance or operation of broadband Internet access service ... .” It would require GO-Biz, by June 30, 2022, to develop recommendations and a model for streamlined processes for broadband infrastructure projects.” And it would require the CPUC to prioritize projects in unserved areas when approving CASF last-mile infrastructure projects. The bill cleared the state Assembly June 2 and headed Thursday to the Senate Rules Committee for further assignment.
  • AB 1323, from San Francisco Democrat David Chiu, would require the California Department of Technology (CDT) to “identify, assess and prioritize legacy information technology system modernization efforts across state government” and require state entities to submit IT contracts to CDT before May 1, 2022. CDT would use the information to determine types of uses that could be “candidates for statewide contracts for commonly used or shared services,” and work with legislative staff and the Legislative Analyst’s Office to evaluate options on modernizing government IT project approval and oversight processes. The goal, Chiu told Techwire recently, is to “ensure our IT systems are modernized, centralized, fiscally responsible and meeting the needs of our citizens.” The bill cleared the Assembly on May 28.
  • AB 99, from Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, would set in place recommendations from the California Cradle-to-Career Data System workgroup’s first legislative report, which detailed the initial stand-up phase of an integrated data system connecting “student-level information” from early childhood to working age. The bill would create two advisory groups for the California Cradle-to-Career Data System, the Data and Tools Advisory Board and the Community Engagement Advisory Board. It would specify that the California Government Operations Agency manage the system via a Cradle-to-Career Office and that the data system go through “the state’s typical IT project approval and oversight process through CDT.” The bill cleared the Assembly on May 27 and headed to the Senate Rules Committee.
  • AB 1560, from Assembly Member Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, would require the state superintendent of public instruction, by April 1, 2022, and yearly afterward, to survey local educational entities and report to the Legislature on pupils who lack “computing devices that meet the minimum performance standard for distance learning,” and pupils who don’t have residential broadband. The bill would authorize the superintendent to issue eligible pupils from kindergarten to 12th grade a device that meets those minimum performance standards; and require the superintendent to keep an online list of broadband options for low-income residents. The bill would also authorize CDT to enter into a “sponsored service agreement” on behalf of a local educational entity to provide free or reduced-cost residential broadband to eligible K-12 pupils. The bill cleared the Assembly June 1 and is pending committee referral in the Senate.
  • One casualty was SB 689, from Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys. It would have given state and local governments the option to use blockchain technology, as defined in state code, to issue a certified birth, death or marriage record. After a slight delay, the Senate Appropriations Committee considered the bill late last month and placed it in suspense.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.