Two broadband subsidy bills have been wrapped together in the California legislature, and appear to be on track for approval this coming week. Senate bill 740, which adds $90 million to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) and expands eligibility a bit, and assembly bill 1299, which gives $25 million of that money to public housing projects, now contain mirror language that make them all but inseparable.
It’s possible that the extra money could be approved even if the public housing piece is shot down, but the political horse trading that got the bills to this point make it unlikely. Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D – Los Angeles) initiated the push for broadband facilities and marketing subsidies in public housing, and became a necessary force behind the extra CASF money when cable lobbyists stalled the bill in his committee. He’s shepherding SB 740 in the assembly, and has tapped an ally, Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles), to speak for his bill, AB 1299, in the senate.
Bradford is accommodating to industry lobbyists, but he is a consistent advocate for urban interests too. Broadband infrastructure subsidies have long been an issue for rural areas, where it is easier to identify service gaps and find entrepreneurs willing to step in. AB 1299 may benefit only public housing agencies, clients and the non-profits that orbit them (plus incumbent carriers, of course), but it does create a common interest between sparsely populated (and frequently republican) rural counties and the metro areas where the California legislature’s democratic majority dominates.
The full assembly could vote on SB 740 as soon as Monday and the senate will likely take up AB 1299 on Tuesday. If approved, the bills will swap places for, presumably, one more vote to get both houses on board with all the changes that have been made. Then, it’s up to Governor Brown.