You’d think he’d be a Dodger fan.
Los Angeles assemblyman Mike Gatto is doubling down on his role as the California legislature’s key player on telecoms policy this season, and he appears to have decided he’s playing on the telephone and cable company team.
As chair of the assembly’s utilities and commerce committee, Gatto blocked a proposal to put more state money into broadband infrastructure – opposed by incumbents because it also empowers competitors – and greased the skids for an AT&T-written bill that would have allowed rural and inner city copper-line networks to be replaced by wireless service. Would have except that opposition, particularly from unionised telecoms workers, stopped assembly bill 2395 before it could go to a vote of the full assembly.
Gatto is carrying industry-friendly legislation of his own, such as a last minute bill to remove most of local government’s discretion regarding cell sites – including on city and county-owned facilities – and a constitutional amendment to disestablish the California Public Utilities Commission and bring utility regulation under the direct control of the legislature. Both bills were supposed to be heard by a senate committee on Tuesday, but were bumped to today. AB 2788 was subsequently removed from that hearing agenda and is now dead. ACA 11 apparently will be heard, although that could change too.
On the other hand, Gatto authored a bill to force “cable, satellite, and Internet service providers” to allow customers to cancel their subscriptions with a simple click on a web site. That would have blown a gaping hole in incumbents’ business models. Would have. Gatto’s enthusiasm for consumer advocacy died on the assembly floor along with his one-click unsubscribe bill, which was never offered up for a vote. It was finally stricken from file – killed for lack of attention.
He is addressing important issues – technology upgrades, CPUC reform, telecoms competition, environmental and administrative roadblocks, one-sided transactions – but in every case Gatto’s deliverable is the one that appears most friendly to big cable and telephone companies, rather than one that balances interests across all stakeholders.
I posed the question earlier: is he trying to build a legacy – he leaves office this year – or is he looking for a new job? I think we have the answer.
Don’t have to look far to find a horse in Sacramento.
Afternoon update: There’s a growing consensus that AB 2788 is dead, rather than just delayed. Resurrection is always possible while the legislature is in session, though. We’ll know its status for sure, at least its current status, by Monday, if not before.
A proposal to allow mobile carriers to install cell sites pretty much anywhere they want – including on publicly owned property – without meaningful review by local government has been bumped by a week. Assembly bill 2788 will be heard next Monday in the senate energy, utilities and commerce committee, instead of as originally scheduled for today. Likewise, a proposal – assembly constitutional amendment 11 – to ask voters whether they want to eliminate the special status given to the California Public Utilities Commission by the California constitution was also pushed back until Monday.
No reason was given for the delays, however it’s worth noting that both bills are being carried – authored is the term of art – by Los Angeles assemblyman Mike Gatto, who chairs the assembly utilities and commerce committee, which in turn will be considering bills next week by San Diego senator Ben Hueso, who chairs the senate energy, utilities and commerce committee. Since next week is also a notional deadline for getting bills out of committee and a hard deadline for getting measures on the November ballot, it’s a fair guess that there’s some horse trading going on.
Hueso just amended a bill of his own and made it about extending the deadline for the CPUC to spend money set aside to pay for broadband facilities in public housing. Senate bill 745 previously dealt with some arcane aspects of the California Advanced Services Fund, so it’s not quite a gut and amend maneuver, but it is a sharp change of course. He’s also a co-author on a bill – SB 215 – that would tighten rules for how regulated utilities and other interested parties communicate with the CPUC about matters before it. Both of those bills are scheduled to be heard by Gatto’s committee on Tuesday.
Camouflaged with associated equipment
. Can’t get any smaller than that.
Using a legislative maneuver delicately referred to as gut and amend, assemblyman Mike Gatto (D – Los Angeles) transmogrified a bill about natural gas storage into a free pass for mobile phone companies to 1. install cell sites pretty much anywhere they want with little or no oversight by local governments and 2. force local governments to lease publicly owned facilities for the purpose (h/t to Omary Masry at the City and County of San Francisco for the pointer).
Assembly bill 2788 will now, according to the legislative analysis…
Permit the use of a small cell, as defined, without a city or county discretionary permit or aesthetic review in all zoning districts, subject only to a building permit or administrative permit, as applicable. The bill would require a city or county to issue those permits, as applicable, within 60 days, except as specified.
The bill would also prohibit a city or county from precluding the leasing or licensing of a site owned by the city or county for the installation of a small cell, except as specified.
The as specified exceptions are pretty thin, and would mostly serve to delay the inevitable by a month or two. The as defined qualification for small cell status is remarkably big. The antenna would be limited to something like the size of a coffee table (six cubic feet), while the rest of gear could be coffin-sized (21 to 28 cubic feet, depending on location). But the limit doesn’t include “associated” equipment like electric meters, back up batteries and similar, or anything that’s reckoned to be camouflaged or otherwise out of the public view. Wireless companies can install as much of that stuff as they want. Given the current downsizing trend in cell site design, the free pass will apply to the vast majority of installations.
AB 2788 was approved by the assembly back when it was about natural gas, so it’s sitting in the California senate now, where it’s scheduled for a hearing tomorrow in the energy, utilities and communications committee.