Tag Archives: sb431

Symmetrical 25 Mbps broadband standard back on track in California assembly

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Fiber patch panel sab photo 625

Funding for fast, reliable broadband service for all Californians gets a hearing on Monday in the California assembly. Senate bill 1130 was supposed to heard by the communications and conveyances committee this week, but was delayed by a political turf war between assembly and senate leadership.

SB 1130 pegs symmetrical 25 Mbps download/25 Mbps upload speeds as California’s residential broadband standard. It’s not a promise of full fiber-based service, but it’s close. Light years closer than the ridiculous 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps minimum that California suffers from now, and that a rival measure pushed by cable and telephone companies would bake into law.

An area that lacks broadband service of at least 25Mbps down/25 Mbps up would be eligible for California Advanced Service Fund grants. Any infrastructure that’s built with CASF subsidies has to be capable of delivering that level of service or better to homes and businesses.

It’s a significant improvement from the version of SB 1130 that was approved by the California senate. Language was deleted that merely encouraged grant recipients to build systems that can deliver a minimum of 100 Mbps down/100 Mbps up – fiber to the premise networks, in other words. More importantly, a hard 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up construction standard is also gone. It would have allowed telcos to spend CASF money on patching decaying, 1990s style DSL systems.

In theory, cable companies can meet the 25 Mbps down/25 Mbps up standard with current DOCSIS 3.1 technology, which is already widely deployed (and often insufficiently provisioned) in California. Otherwise, CASF-subsidised infrastructure will necessarily be all fiber, or nearly so. Wireless networks can deliver symmetrical 25 Mbps service, but only reliably to a relative handful of customers in any given area. AT&T, Frontier Communications and the resellers – competitive local exchange carriers – that lease facilities from them can juice up copper lines for a (high paying) customer here and there, but not on a mass consumer market basis.

Any middle mile networks built with CASF grants would have to be made available to all comers on an open access, wholesale basis. At least to an extent. The California Public Utilities Commission would be able to limit the open access obligation, if not eliminate it completely, if it is deemed unnecessary or if impedes a company’s ability to “recover [its] investment costs”.

Thanks to the covid–19 emergency, the public can participate in legislative committee hearings remotely. If you want to add your voice to the debate, the call in number will be posted on the communications and conveyances committee’s webpage just before Monday’s 11:00 a.m. hearing. A second broadband-related bill – SB 431 – is on the agenda. It would require mobile carriers to install back up power in high fire threat areas and, among other things, maintain customers’ web browsing capability during power failures.

I’ve advocated for SB 1130, and for other useful changes to CASF. I am involved and proud of it. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

The usual faces aren’t in the usual places, so California legislature stalls broadband bills

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Chp horses capitol 3feb2016

A political pissing match between the California senate and assembly will delay action on a bill that aims to raise California’s broadband standard to symmetrical 25 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload speeds. Senate bill 1130, authored by Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles) was one of only two bills scheduled to be heard this morning by the assembly’s communications and conveyances committee.

The other is SB 431. Carried by Mike McGuire (D – Sonoma), it would require mobile carriers to install back up generators at their cell sites in high fire threat areas, and maintain service, including “basic internet browsing for emergency notices” during disasters and power outages – purposeful or not.

All of today’s assembly committee hearings were cancelled late yesterday by assembly speaker Anthony Rendon (D – Los Angeles). He sent out a message to assembly members, which was retweeted by John Myers, Sacramento bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times

Members –

I want to alert you that I am concerned about the imbalance of bills yet to be considered in each house. In order to facilitate discussions with the Senate, I am delaying tomorrow’s Assembly hearings. There will be no Assembly committee meetings tomorrow.

We have important work in front of us and I am confident that we will come together to work on behalf of the people of California.

Thank you


Translation: if the senate trashes our bills because they’re jammed for time, we’ll show them what it really feels like to be jammed.

The legislature came back to Sacramento yesterday (I was about to write “came back to work”, but thought better of it) after a second covid–19 shutdown. They have a bit more than a month to get through hundreds of bills. Most of the bills authored by senators are in the assembly now, and most of the assembly bills are in the senate. Which might seem like an equitable division of work, except that there are twice as many assembly members as senators, and twice as many assembly bills. Under normal circumstances, the fact that half as many senators have to work through twice as many bills isn’t a problem – it evens out eventually. But things are not normal this year.

Stay tuned.

I’ve advocated for SB 1130, and for other useful changes to CASF. I am involved and proud of it. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

Fast, reliable broadband considered by California lawmakers. AT&T, Comcast, Charter pay millions to say no

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Money case 625

When members of the California assembly’s communications and conveyances committee take their seats tomorrow, they’ll be looking out at – actually or virtually – big telecoms lobbyists that 1. pay millions of dollars for laws they love and 2. hate the two broadband bills that are on the covid-shortened agenda. Senate bill 1130 raises California minimum broadband standard to symmetrical 25 Mbps download/25 Mbps upload speeds, and SB 431 imposes back up power and web browsing requirements on mobile carriers (but not on cable company VoIP or telcos’ ersatz wireless broadband, thanks to those same lobbyists).

The twelve members of the C&C committee pocketed a total of $1.7 million from the communications and electronics sector over the course of their legislative careers, according to data from the Follow the Money website. That doesn’t yet include money paid during this election year. Much of it comes from AT&T – the top contributor in the sector – and cable companies, such as Comcast and Charter Communications, which together take second place. Members of the California senate’s energy, utilities and communications committee have raked in even more cash.

Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles) chairs C&C, and has used the authority that goes with the job to keep his patrons happy. When a network neutrality bill – SB 822 – was under consideration two years ago, he strong armed killer amendments into it, pleasing telcos and cable companies, but enraging online opinion. The ensuing meme storm forced him to back down. That was unusual, though. Typically, he follows the monopoly model telecom playbook, except when organised labor – an even bigger benefactor – objects.

Through the end of last year, AT&T paid Santiago $43,000, including $10,000 via a side organisation – sometimes referred to as a ballot measure committee – that Santiago operates. It allows him to get around legal limits on direct payments. Comcast, Charter and other cable companies have matched that, with $43,000 paid between them (all totals are rounded and include payments from affiliates now owned or controlled by cable and telco parents). Mobile companies (other than AT&T) gave Santiago $25,000 and Frontier kicked in $9,000. All up, Santiago has raked in $262,000 from companies and individuals in the communications and electronics sector.

Evan Low (D – Santa Clara), who also does a good day’s work for AT&T, does even better than Santiago. Industry payments to Low total $351,000 – more than anyone else on the C&C committee. He represents a slice of Silicon Valley, and collects a lot of that money from tech companies. But big telecom pays him handsomely, too. He’s taken $58,000 from AT&T, including $18,000 to his slush fund ballot measure committee. Comcast, Charter and other cable companies put $47,000 in Low’s pocket, other mobile interests gave him $22,000 and Frontier paid him $4,000.

Eduardo Garcia (D – Imperial), Santiago’s other reliable wingman on the committee, has been paid $107,000 by communications and electronics industry interests, but most of it – $79,000 – came from big telecom. He doesn’t have a side hustle – yet – so those are all direct payments. Garcia took $29,000 from AT&T, $4,000 from Frontier, $34,000 from Charter, Comcast and other cable companies, and $13,000 from the mobile industry (ex AT&T). On the other hand, Garcia has signed on as a co-author of SB 1130 – we’ll soon find other whether it’s for good or ill.

The covid-19 restrictions in force at the state capitol mean that remote public participation is allowed. The call-in number is supposed to be posted on the committee’s website tomorrow morning, ahead of the 10:00 a.m. scheduled starting time.

Legislative career payments from communications and electronics industry sector, as of 31 December 2019

California assembly communications and conveyance committee members
Miguel Santiago (chair)D – Los Angeles$252,258
Jay Obernolte (vice chair)R – San Bernardino$127,941
Tasha Boerner HorvathD – San Diego$40,850
Rob BontaD – Alameda$201,249
Sabrina CervantesD – Riverside$62,100
Eduardo GarciaD – Imperial$107,125
Chris HoldenD – Los Angeles$249,318
Sydney Kamlager-DoveD – Los Angeles$69,455
Evan LowD – Santa Clara$333,184
Jim PattersonR – Fresno$135,725
Sharon Quirk-SilvaD – Orange$84,248
Freddie RodriguezD – Los Angeles$79,567
California senate energy, utilities and communications committee members
Ben Hueso (chair)D – San Diego$185,663
John Moorlach (vice chair)R – San Diego$68,000
Steven BradfordD – Los Angeles$372,632
Ling Ling ChangR – Orange$117,208
Brian DahleR – Lassen$187,548
Bill DoddD – Napa$149,584
Bob HertzbergD – Los Angeles$347,212
Jerry HillD – San Mateo$290,366
Mike McGuireD – Sonoma$78,169
Susan RubioD – Los Angeles$24,449
Nancy SkinnerD – Alameda$264,803
Henry SternD – Los Angeles$185,385
Scott WienerD – San Francisco$294,031
Grand Total$4,308,070
Source: FollowTheMoney.org, California secretary of state’s office

I’ve advocated for SB 1130, and for other useful changes to CASF. I am involved and proud of it. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

Power out? No 911? California bill allows cable, telcos to say stick it

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Woolsey fire victim

Companies that provide voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and fixed wireless Internet service (WISPs) won’t, for the most part, have to keep their networks running during disasters, under a bill that was just amended in the California assembly. As now written, senate bill 431 generally confirms resiliency requirements – e.g. 72 hours of backup power and maintain access to “basic internet browsing for emergency notices” in high fire threat areas – imposed on mobile carriers by the California Public Utilities Commission this week, but draws the line there.

That’s a big win for Comcast, Charter Communications, Cox Communications and other cable companies that offer telephone service via VoIP technology. All they would have to do is mail a warning label to customers once year and tell them to stick it on their phone. The warning would advise customers that losing power means losing 911 service, although it might not come across that way since weasel words like “may be impacted” are allowed.

It’s a double win for AT&T and Frontier Communications. They get the same VoIP break as cable companies, plus they’ll be able to offer service via fixed wireless facilities that have no backup power or disaster preparedness requirements at all, instead of upgrading or maintaining wireline networks, which must be kept running during emergencies and electric outages.

An earlier draft of SB 431 would have extended back up power and other network resiliency requirements to pretty much any Internet service provider in California, but that text disappeared. Presumably, that’s the work of the platoons of lobbyists that AT&T, Comcast, Charter and the rest deploy in Sacramento to stuff millions of dollars into lawmakers pockets. It’s no coincidence that the bill is scheduled to be heard in the assembly communications and conveyances committee next week, which is stuffed with lawmakers who have particularly benefited from big telecom’s generosity and have graciously repaid those favors, at least until netizens take notice.

Short broadband to-do list for California legislators upon return from summer vacation

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

California lawmakers are taking an abbreviated summer break. They usually leave Sacramento for a month around July, but since they were off for so long earlier this year due to covid-19 and because of the uncertain condition of the state budget, their effective vacation was trimmed back to less than two weeks. They’re scheduled to return to the capitol a week from today. When they return, they’ll have just a handful of broadband-related bills to act on.

The assembly’s incumbent-friendly communications and conveyances committee is scheduled to take up senate bill 1130 next Tuesday, the day after the legislature reconvenes. SB 1130, carried by Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles) would raise California’s minimum broadband standard to symmetrical 25 Mbps download and upload speeds, and make other useful changes to the California Advanced Services Fund. An opposing bill, assembly bill 570, that tracks with talking points pushed by cable and telephone company lobbyists, is headed for the senate’s energy, utilities and communications committee. AB 570 is authored by Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D – Yolo), would cement in the current, pitiful 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up standard and make other changes to the California Advanced Services Fund that suit incumbents with monopoly business models and deep pockets full of cash for pliable legislators.

SB 431, authored by Mike McGuire (D – Sonoma) has been stalled in the assembly communications and conveyances committee for more than a year, but is now scheduled for a hearing next Tuesday. Given the monied interests it offends, its prospects are dim. SB 432 would give the California Public Utilities Commission explicit instructions to established reliability standards for telephone, cable and mobile companies, and any other Internet service provider in high fire threat areas. Fortunately, the CPUC isn’t waiting for explicit instructions.

AB 2421, by Bill Quirk (D – Alameda) would require cities and counties to issue permits for back up generators at macro cell sites, following a minimal and expedited review. Those generators would also be exempt from California Environmental Quality Act requirements. AB 2421 was passed unanimously by the assembly in June, and is queued up in the senate.

Other broadband policy bills could appear as the legislature works towards adjournment at the end of August, but for now it’s a short list.

I’ve advocated for SB 1130, and for other useful changes to CASF. I am involved and proud of it. I am not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

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.