Tag Archives: ab1409

School bus WiFi and take home mobile hotspots for students funding in proposed California bill

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Jet school bus2

A placeholder bill that originally targeted the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) – the state’s primary broadband infrastructure subsidy program – was gutted, amended and turned into a subsidy program for after school Internet access for elementary and high school students. Assembly bill 1409 is carried by assemblyman Ed Chau (D – Los Angeles), who made a tech policy name for himself last year when he authored California’s new online privacy law.

As originally submitted, AB 1409 made what amounted to an inconsequential typographic change to the law that rewrote the CASF program in 2017. The usual purpose of such bills is to get something into the hopper ahead of the legislature’s annual deadline for introducing new legislation, with the intent of maybe doing something with it later.

That something turned into subsidies for “homework gap projects”, which are defined as projects that provide “pupils in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, with after school access to broadband, such as Wi-Fi enabled school buses or school or library Wi-Fi hot spot lending”. The money would come from the California Teleconnect Fund (CTF), which pays for broadband service for schools, libraries and some non-profit organisations, usually to help close the gap left by the federal e-rate program, which funds most, but not all, of the cost of such service.

It’s an incremental change. Both CTF and the federal e-rate program are already used to pay for free broadband access, via WiFi at schools and libraries, and some school districts have toyed with the idea of extending some kind of wireless service to students at home. Hotspot lending – allowing students to, say, take home an active 4G wireless router – and WiFi on school buses are already arguably eligible for CTF money, and some districts or libraries might already be doing it.

AB 1409 would clear up any doubt, and potentially create a whole new category of publicly subsidised broadband service. It could also open the door to boondoggles: there’s already an ecosystem of companies and organisations that push projects of dubious value to educators with little knowledge of technology and no experience as service providers. The bill scheduled for its first hearing in the telco-and-cable-friendly assembly communications and conveyances committee ton Wednesday. It’s worthing keeping an eye on.

Broadband fading into dull necessity at California legislature

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Unlike electric service, broadband isn’t turning out to be a hot topic at the California capitol this year. Friday was the 2019 deadline for introducing new bills in both the assembly and senate. Nothing of any consequence directly relating to broadband issues dropped.

Only two bills address broadband head on – assembly bill 1409 by Ed Chau (D – Los Angeles) and AB 488 by Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D – Yolo) – but neither breaks new ground as introduced. AB 488 would add a representative from the food and agriculture department to the California Broadband Council. It’s minor step, albeit useful. AB 1409 is a placeholder bill that targets the California Advanced Services Fund, the state’s primary broadband infrastructure subsidy program.

Placeholders are either a way of signalling that the author plans to take on an issue in a serious way later on, or it’s a way of beating the deadline by introducing a shell that can be turned into something real later on, via a gut and amend maneuver. It’s an opportunity for mischief.

Broadband plays a supporting role in a handful of other bills. In way, those might be more significant – increasingly, acceptable broadband service is being treated as essential to achieving major legislative goals, such as child development, public infrastructure upgrades and rural prosperity. Broadband access the door to “opportunities to improve agricultural productivity”, as AB 417 by Joaquin Arambula (D – Fresno) puts it, and a key measure of whether programs in disadvantage neighborhoods are achieving results, per senate bill 686 by Benjamin Allen (D – Los Angeles).

California legislators are worked up about what people do with broadband access, though. Particularly where their privacy is concerned. I count at least 17 bills – some placeholders, some a bit more specific – that deal with online privacy in general. Several specifically target California’s new privacy law, although none propose substantive changes yet. They all bear watching. Opponents – including telecoms companies that make generous payments to lawmakers – will lobby heavily to water it down.