Assembly committee puts California broadband subsidy bill on hold

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Don’t keep us in suspense.

The fate of California broadband infrastructure subsidies will come down to a mass legislative horse trading session next week. Senate bill 740, which would add $90 million to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) and allow independent ISPs and cities to apply for broadband construction money under limited circumstances, was shuffled to the assembly appropriations committee’s suspense file yesterday. The move was expected.

It’s a procedural limbo that was originally created to allow lawmakers to delay significant spending or tax bills until after the state budget is approved. It’s evolved into a mechanism that allows legislative leaders to pick which bills move forward and which don’t. Leaders, including appropriations committee members, will allow some bills to move forward to a vote by the full assembly, probably next Thursday. The rest will be dead for this year, although some might be considered again next year.

A companion measure, assembly bill 1299, is also in a suspense file, over on the senate side. It’s linked to SB 740. If both pass, then $25 million would be taken from general infrastructure subsidies and given to broadband facilities and marketing programs in California public housing projects. Its fate might be determined a day earlier.

It’s a chance to kill the bills behind closed doors, with no one except Sacramento insiders knowing how or why. It was a struggle to get SB 740 approved by the assembly utilities and commerce committee because of some nasty opposition tactics used by the cable industry. In theory, cable lobbyists backed off, saying they were neutral regarding the bill after crippling changes were made. But they would be even happier if it died completely.

If you’re interested, either way, you can contact members of the assembly and senate appropriations committees, and let them know what you think.