Enviro fast track for LA network, slow lane for lifeline okayed by governor

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Two more telecoms-related bills have been signed by governor Jerry Brown, and several more – of greater consequence – are hanging in the balance with four days to go before his veto deadline.

Without comment, Brown approved assembly bill 2570 and senate bill 1008. AB 2570 deals with restrictions on low income lifeline telephone (and broadband) subsidies and was watered down in the final days of the legislative session. As originally written by assemblyman Bill Quirk (D – Hayward), anyone who signs up for a subsidised service plan would be stuck with that carrier for a minimum of two months. As ultimately approved by the legislature and, now, the governor, it only asked the California Public Utilities Commission to consider imposing a two month waiting period, which it is already thinking about doing anyway.

SB 1008 is a very tightly targeted bill that extends a previous waiver Los Angeles County received that allows it to slice through any environmental red tape that might delay a public safety communications network project. It’s interesting mainly for the possible precedent it might set: if building a tower in a particularly set of circumstances for public safety purposes warrants a fast pass through the California Environmental Quality Act minefield, then why shouldn’t commercial facilities in similar circumstances get the same treatment? That’s a question for the next legislature when it begins work next year, though.

We’re still awaiting the governor’s decision on three CPUC reform measures, SB 62, SB 215 and SB 512. Those would, respectively, create a safety advocate, clamp down on back room conversations between interest parties – including regulated utilities – and CPUC decision makers, and generally open up CPUC proceedings to greater public scrutiny. Arguably, AB 650 falls in the same bucket – it would preempt most local regulation of the taxi business.

SB 745 by senator Ben Hueso (D – San Diego) is also on the governor’s desk. It extends the deadline for applying for grants to install broadband facilities in public housing, and market the services to residents. It also bans those subsidies from being spent in public housing communities where incumbent cable and/or telephone companies are already selling service, even when it’s at a much higher price that’s out of reach of most residents.