LA legislator is key player for California telecoms policy

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Hardball, fast ball or screw ball?

Four consequential broadband bills approached a key committee in the California assembly over the past couple of weeks, with permissive regulations for incumbents making first base on a walk, and subsidies and rules that favor competitors striking out.

Mike Gatto, a democrat from Los Angeles and the chairman of the utilities and commerce committee, was on the pitching mound for all four bills. He’s the driving force behind a push to put a simple thumbs up or thumbs down vote on the future of the California Public Utilities Commission onto the November ballot, and the gatekeeper who waved through AT&T’s bid to end rural wireline service, while stopping a plan to re-energise broadband infrastructure subsidies by adding money and raising the state’s minimum standard to 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds (and, it should be said, adding money to several non-infrastructure programs as well).

The results for all four bills should put smiles on the faces of AT&T and cable lobbyists, who have been very kind to him over the years: AT&T is Gatto’s top corporate benefactor during his assembly career, giving him more than $20,100 according to FollowTheMoney.org (although, it should be said, unions and trade associations have given him even more). Time Warner Cable gave him $19,900, only $200 less.

On the other hand, he’s pushing a bill that would blast a hole in the subscription-based business models of independents and incumbents alike: AB 2867 would force cable companies, and telephone companies and other Internet service providers to allow customers to cancel service via a website, as easily as they sign up for it. The difference between that bill and the four he curated for incumbents is that it hasn’t come up in front of his committee yet (although it’s scheduled for Wednesday).

Gatto’s Sacramento career is coming to an end – term limits are pushing him out of the assembly and he’s not running for Senate. Is he trying to build a legislative legacy, or looking for a job?

I’ve advocated for and helped to draft AB 1758 – which struck out – and its predecessors. I’m involved and proud of it. Take it for what it’s worth.