Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Governor’s pen will write the story for community broadband development in California

by Steve Blum
Tellus Venture Associates

Three bills with big implications for community broadband in California are still sitting on Governor Brown’s desk, waiting for his approval or veto:

Assembly bill 2272 would blow a huge hole in the California Advanced Services Fund and roll back much of the progress made last year when the legislature – and Brown – added $90 million to the kitty and made independent ISPs eligible for broadband construction subsidies. By requiring every CASF-funded project – past, present and future – to follow the state’s so-called prevailing wage rules, the effective subsidy would drop from 60% (for underserved areas) to less than 30% and the cost to the state would nearly double. And AB 2272 would impose a heavy paperwork burden on any company that took the money. Brown should veto it.

On the other hand, AB 2292 would give cities and other local agencies another financing tool to pay for community broadband infrastructure. Authored by San Leandro assemblyman Rob Bonta, it would put broadband on a par with other types of public works, like roads, sewers or water systems, and make it possible for cities to pay for it via bonds issued by infrastructure financing districts. Brown should approve it.

Senate bill 628 is a half a step in the right direction for community broadband development, but a giant leap for public infrastructure overall. It would create the legal framework for enhanced infrastructure funding districts that would have far greater flexibility in building – with two-thirds voter approval – basic facilities. Like roads, sewers and water systems. But not specifically broadband networks, although it doesn’t exactly preclude it either. Half a step forward is still progress and Brown should also approve it.

The deadline for a decision is the end of the month.

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