California bill defining broadband as public infrastructure diverted for review

by Steve Blum • , , ,

A proposal to include broadband infrastructure in the list of things that special infrastructure financing districts (IFD) can pay for in California has been kicked to an assembly committee.

The measure – assembly bill 2292 – was approved by the California senate earlier this week, and was headed to a vote by full assembly. But because it was done using the gut-and-amend process – the text in an earlier bill that had almost nothing to do with the subject was stripped out and replaced with broadband financing language – the bill was diverted to the local government committee for review.

As an analysis by legislative staff mentions, it’s arguable whether the bill is even necessary…

This bill allows any IFD to finance public capital facilities or projects that include broadband, and defines “broadband” as communications network facilities that enable high-speed Internet access…

State law says that the types of public facilities of communitywide significance that an IFD may finance are not limited to the types of projects that are listed in statute. As a result, a city-wide fiber optic network may already qualify for IFD financing, despite not being specifically mentioned in the state laws governing IFDs. This bill may only clarify what is already allowable under current law.

Necessary or not, though, it’s a good idea to clarify the law. Local broadband initiatives are usually opposed – publicly or behind closed doors – by big incumbent broadband providers with deep pockets for political campaigns and lawsuits. The bill is sponsored by the City of San Leandro, which is a leader in innovative municipal broadband initiatives, and carried by assemblyman Rob Bonta (D – Oakland). Initially, the proposal reportedly ran into flack from the usual suspects – Comcast and AT&T – so vigilance is no vice. But so far, no open opposition has surfaced.

The committee vote is scheduled for Wednesday, 15 August 2014.

Tellus Venture Associates proudly counts the Cities of San Leandro and Oakland as clients. I haven’t talked to them about AB 2292 – it’s something I’d support regardless of whose idea it is. But even so, it’s a bill that would benefit most of my clients. I’m not a disinterested commentator; take it for what it’s worth.