Monday is make or break day for California broadband subsidies

by Steve Blum • , , , , , ,

How many seats will be empty?

Eight members of the assembly utilities and commerce committee have to vote aye three times to resurrect a bill to top up and extend the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). A special committee meeting is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Monday, and senate bill 740, the CASF extension, is the only item on the agenda.

The first, and most important, choice committee members will make is to vote with their feet. Eight, out of a total of fifteen, have to show up. Less than that, and nothing happens. Then, eight members have to agree to reconsider last month’s defeat of SB 740. Anticlimactically, the final vote is to actually send the bill on towards the assembly floor.

An absence or abstention is the same as a no vote. It was the abstainers who killed SB 740 in July. Cowed or confused by the outright lies shovelled on them by cable lobbyists, seven members, mostly democrats, sat silent when their names were called. Five democrats on the committee voted aye and three republicans voted no, leaving the bill three votes short.

The bill’s author, senator Alex Padilla (D – Los Angeles), negotiated new language last week that all but bars independent ISPs and local governments from applying for grants and loans to build broadband infrastructure. That won him a grudging letter from the California cable industry’s lobbying front, which withdrew formal opposition but explicitly refused to endorse the bill. At least they came through with the letter. As the deal was understood, Comcast and Verizon were supposed to send similar letters, but I haven’t seen any such or talked with anyone who has.

At last word, two legislators who sat silent have been convinced to join the aye camp, and others might be leaning in that direction. On the other hand, the analysis prepared on behalf of republican members recommends a no vote. It’ll be a cliffhanger. I’ll be at the meeting and will post results as votes are taken. You can also listen live via the assembly’s Internet audio feed.