A tentative first step toward broadband construction policy reform in California

6 February 2015 by Steve Blum
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The California legislature has broadband development – particularly, government obstacles to infrastructure construction – on its agenda this year. Assemblyman Bill Quirk – who represents a swath of the east bay area from San Lorenzo, through Hayward and Fremont, to Sunol – introduced the beginnings of a bill that’s aimed at making it easier to build both wireline and wireless facilities.

At this point, the language in assembly bill 57 is not specific about what it’ll do. It lists reasons why broadband is good, and ends by saying…

It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to promote the deployment of communications infrastructure by removing barriers to investment. Removing investment barriers is critical to meeting the surging demand by California residents for advanced wireless and wireline broadband technologies and services, supporting and enhancing critical public safety needs, and bridging the digital divide by increasing access for more Californians to improved education, health care, and economic development opportunities.

It’s purposefully vague, said Carolina Salazar, Quirk’s district aide, at the East Bay Broadband Consortium’s summit meeting in Oakland this week. The plan is to work with local governments over the coming months to figure out workable statewide standards for streamlining the way broadband construction work – wired and wireless – is regulated.

Starting off the new legislative session with a bill that’s essentially a shell is fine, as long as the people working to fill in the details truly do want to come up with new rules to manage the public right of ways “on a competitively neutral and nondiscriminatory basis”. If nothing else, its progress will be a good indicator of the commitment of new legislative leaders – particularly on the key utilities committees in the assembly and senate – to reform. And it’ll tell us who they really listen to.