One way or another, major California broadband policy decisions due this weekend

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**Update, 15 October 2017, 0754**: no decision yet on AB 1665 or SB 649. Governor Brown signed AB 1145 into law yesterday.

There are two significant broadband-related bills remaining on governor Jerry Brown’s desk, and one relatively minor one, and he’s leaving them until the last minute. For each, he must choose one of three options by 11:59 p.m. Sunday:

  • Sign it into law.
  • Veto it.
  • Do nothing and let it become law automatically Monday morning, at the stroke of midnight.

The two big ones are assembly bill 1665 and senate bill 649. AB 1665 would lower California’s standard for acceptable broadband service to 6 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds. It also sets aside $300 million for infrastructure deployment under rules that all but guarantee that the money will go to AT&T and Frontier Communications in exchange for minimal service upgrades that they would, in most cases, be doing anyway.

SB 649 is potentially an even bigger gift of public assets to telecoms companies. It requires local governments to lease out vertical infrastructure in the public right of way – streetlight poles, traffic signals and pretty much anything else that sticks up in the air – to wireless companies for $250 a year. That’s below – far below, in some cases – the market rate in most California cities. It also requires cities and counties to lease out other property, whether they want to or not, and prunes back their already limited discretion over where wireless infrastructure can be installed.

Then there’s AB 1145. It gives cable companies access to payments from local government for utility undergrounding projects, without requiring them to meet the obligations that normally fall on a public utility. Cable industry lobbyists also managed to get some deal sweeteners slipped into AB 1665 and SB 649 – cash is king, and Comcast, Charter and friends give a lot of it to California lawmakers. As do AT&T and Frontier.

On the other hand, Brown is hearing from a growing list of opponents) to AB 1665, and nearly every California city and county has gone on record against SB 649. The political heat is rising.

Guessing which way Brown will decide to go is a long running, and frustrating, game in Sacramento. The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t have long to wait.