Broadband infrastructure and public housing now a common cause

by Steve Blum • , , , , , ,

Doesn’t matter how many buckets you have if the well runs dry.

The officially amended version of a bill aimed at improving Internet access and increasing its use in public housing projects has been released, and its good news for broadband infrastructure in California.

Assembly bill 1299 would set aside $25 million from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to wire public housing units and pay for marketing programs to encourage residents to sign up for service. It was up for consideration last week in a California senate committee, the day after an assembly committee killed a proposal to add $90 million to CASF. Several amendments were put on the table; committee members generally hand-waved them through without much discussion, before the actual language was written.

Now it’s down on paper. As it currently stands, AB 1299 is very clear: no money for public housing purposes unless more money is put into CASF. That’s a big change from the previous version of the bill.

Current law limits CASF to a grand total of $225 million, which includes a $15 million revolving loan fund and $10 million for regional broadband consortia. The rest goes to broadband infrastructure grants in unserved and underserved areas of California. If there’s any money left after the current round of grant applications is finished, and there might well be, it’ll still be earmarked for that purpose.

The goal isn’t to keep money away from anyone. The goal is to keep CASF in business so it can be expanded to cover public housing as well as rural broadband projects. There’s more incentive now for assembly committee members to take a second look at topping up CASF. They’ll have that chance in August.