Tag Archives: sb1069

Faster standards for broadband subsidies head to California senate floor, two other key bills killed

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Cruzio fiber build 625

A bill to raise California’s minimum broadband speed standard and subsidise fiber to the premise infrastructure was blessed by the California senate’s appropriations committee yesterday. But the bill was amended and the changes haven’t been published yet. Two other bills that would have put emergency preparedness and response obligations on all Internet service providers were killed behind closed doors by senate leadership.

Senate bill 1130, authored by Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles), would raise the eligibility standard for broadband infrastructure subsidies from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to 25 Mbps download/25 Mbps upload speeds, from the current pathetic level of 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up.

Any community, or area within a community, that lacks broadband service at or above the eligibility standard – 6/1 now, maybe 25/25 soon – would be able to get money from CASF to upgrade broadband infrastructure to a higher service. Now, that level is an equally pathetic 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up, which has allowed Frontier Communications to take millions of dollars from CASF for marginal DSL upgrades. Much of the arm wrestling over SB 1130 is about what the new construction standard would be – it began at 100 Mbps down and up, and has since slid to 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up. Which is lower than the eligibility standard. Yesterday’s amendments might have resolved that paradox. Might.

SB 1058, by Ben Hueso (D – San Diego) and SB 1069, by Hannah-Beth Jackson (D – Santa Barbara) were aimed at solving some of the problems that have plagued emergency officials during wildfires and public safety power shutoffs during the past few years. Among other things, both would have treated all ISPs the same. Cable companies, mobile carriers and others that have carved out comfortable privileges and immunities for themselves, usually with big cash payments to lawmakers. They opposed SB 1058 and SB 1069 and may have gotten their money’s worth yesterday.

Cable companies, including Charter Communications and Comcast, are using their Sacramento lobbying front to oppose the higher standards in SB 1130 as well. They want to block any hint of a threat to their high speed broadband monopolies. The next stop for SB 1130, whatever the amended version turns out to be, is a vote by the full California senate.

Cable, mobile companies fight rollback of perks they’ve paid California lawmakers big bucks to write

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Special privileges that cable companies and mobile carriers have bought from the California legislature over the years could be rolled back a bit if two bills approved by the California senate’s energy, utilities and communications (EU&C) committee make it into law.

Senate bill 1058, authored by Ben Hueso (D – San Diego), would require “every Internet service provider” (as the legislative counsel’s digest put it) to “file an annual emergency operations plan” with the California Public Utilities Commission. Besides information about emergency operations and contact information for state and local officials, as currently written the bill effectively requires ISPs to offer “an affordable class of broadband Internet service” to people locked down or displaced by a disaster and to provide “capital expenditure plans for broadband expansion” to the CPUC annually.

Every ISP means just that. Any “business that provides broadband Internet access service” to any customer will have to comply. That prospect upset lobbyists for cable companies and mobile carriers, particularly. Their Sacramento front organisations led the opposition to the bill. Despite that, it was approved on a 10 to 3 party line vote.

SB 1069, carried by Hannah-Beth Jackson (D – Santa Barbara), is a bit more subtle, but will be equally, if not more, disruptive to the cozy regulatory carve outs that lobbyists for mobile carriers, like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, and cable companies, like Comcast, Charter Communications and Cox, have paid millions of dollars to lawmakers over the years to create and preserve.

On its face, the bill requires “telecommunications service” providers to deliver more and better information about “critical communications infrastructure” to state and local officials during a disaster. But it also ropes ISPs and broadband networks, respectively, into those categories by expanding the definition of telecommunications service to include voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service and the infrastructure – i.e. broadband networks – that carry it. That also brought howls of protest from the cable and mobile minions, who rightly fear that the change will breach the regulatory firewall between themselves and legacy copper telephone companies that they’ve spent so much money building.

It’s just a chip in the firewall, though. The Federal Communications Commission and, so far, federal courts perpetuate the fiction that identical functionality is a “telecommunications service” when provided via one type of technology – legacy telco copper – but is an “information service” when delivered over another type – Internet protocol-based broadband systems.

Both bills, along with SB 1130, which upgrades California minimum broadband standard to symmetrical 25 Mbps download and upload speeds, head to the California senate appropriations committee. The real work of the appropriations committee is done behind closed doors by legislative leadership, which makes it the preferred killing ground for bills that offend cash laden lobbyists.

Five telecoms bills cling to life in the California legislature as deadlines pass

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Compressed deadlines at the California legislature will leave several telecommunications bills for dead, as attention turns toward the 15 June 2020 constitutionally mandated date for passing the annual state budget. With weeks taken out of the normal schedule by the covid–19 lockdown, and committee work hampered by social distancing and quarantine measures, far fewer bills are expected to make it out of the Sacramento sausage machine this year.

Four bills are moving ahead: senate bill 1130, a broadband subsidy bill I wrote about last Wednesday, two bills that lean into broadband regulation – SB 1058 and SB 1069 – that I’ll write about later, and assembly bill 2421, which would require local governments to fast track permit approvals for emergency generators needed to keep cell sites running.

All four bills are in the appropriations committees in their respective houses. Typically, appropriations committees give bills a short, pro forma hearing, and then put them on ice until legislative leaders meet behind closed doors to decide which ones will go forward.

A fifth bill is stalled in the telephone and cable company-friendly assembly communications and conveyances committee. SB 431. Introduced by senator Mike McGuire (D – Sonoma) and joined by Steven Glaser (D – Contra Costa), the bill would have given the California Public Utilities Commission the job of setting performance reliability standards for cell sites statewide and for all other telecoms infrastructure in high fire risk areas. To say the least, that’s not a welcome change for AT&T, Comcast, Charter and other monopoly model service providers. Because it began life in the senate last year, the deadline for moving out of the communications and conveyances committee is 31 July 2020.

With the caveat that death is never final at the California capitol and bills can be resurrected at any time, this year roadkill includes:

  • AB 2163. A well intentioned bill by assemblyman Robert Rivas (D – San Benito) to improve connectivity at fairgrounds throughout California, it stalled when the covid–19 lockdown sent lawmakers home.
  • SB 1206. Authored by senator Lena Gonzales (D – Los Angeles), it aimed to set a statewide standard for microtrenching, which involves installing fiber optic cables in narrow street cuts. Or not so narrow – the bill would have expanded the definition of microtrenching to a technically ridiculous eight-inch width. SB 1206 never made out of the senate’s in-box.