Votes on California broadband subsidy changes set for Tuesday

by Steve Blum • , , , , , ,

Providing meaningful input to the process.

Two proposals to change the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) are on the table in Sacramento, and both are scheduled for major votes on Tuesday. Assembly bill 1299 and senate bill 740 will be put before the full California Assembly and Senate, respectively, after legislative leaders – primarily super-majority Democrats – released both for a vote. The alternative would have been to kill them outright, which was the fate of many other bills in progress.

It’s not a guarantee that either bill will make it all the way to Governor Brown’s desk. This Friday is the deadline for bills to be approved by the side of the legislature in which they originate. There are still a lot of opportunities for horse trading between the Assembly and the Senate, as well as a brief window for public comment. And ample opportunity for lobbyists concerned corporate citizens to carpet bomb the Capitol with campaign donations exercise their First Amendment rights.

Both AB1299 and SB740 have been given plenty of loving attention by cable and telco lobbyists. AB1299, which would direct broadband construction subsidies toward public housing project, has some goodies that the cable industry will find particularly tasty. SB740 as currently written would effectively cut off additional funding for CASF (although you wouldn’t know it from reading the staff summary given to senators before the vote) and make it very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone except incumbents to qualify for broadband construction subsidies.

Based on the lopsided approval given both bills by various committees and the warm reception members gave to industry lobbyists, I’m expecting both bills to be approved and head to the respective other sides of the legislature.