California broadband interests walk hand in hand in Sacramento


Together forever.

Two broadband subsidy bills have been wrapped together in the California legislature, and appear to be on track for approval this coming week. Senate bill 740, which adds $90 million to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) and expands eligibility a bit, and assembly bill 1299, which gives $25 million of that money to public housing projects, now contain mirror language that make them all but inseparable.

It’s possible that the extra money could be approved even if the public housing piece is shot down, but the political horse trading that got the bills to this point make it unlikely. Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D – Los Angeles) initiated the push for broadband facilities and marketing subsidies in public housing, and became a necessary force behind the extra CASF money when cable lobbyists stalled the bill in his committee. He’s shepherding SB 740 in the assembly, and has tapped an ally, Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles), to speak for his bill, AB 1299, in the senate.

Bradford is accommodating to industry lobbyists, but he is a consistent advocate for urban interests too. Broadband infrastructure subsidies have long been an issue for rural areas, where it is easier to identify service gaps and find entrepreneurs willing to step in. AB 1299 may benefit only public housing agencies, clients and the non-profits that orbit them (plus incumbent carriers, of course), but it does create a common interest between sparsely populated (and frequently republican) rural counties and the metro areas where the California legislature’s democratic majority dominates.

The full assembly could vote on SB 740 as soon as Monday and the senate will likely take up AB 1299 on Tuesday. If approved, the bills will swap places for, presumably, one more vote to get both houses on board with all the changes that have been made. Then, it’s up to Governor Brown.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.