California Broadband Council leadership leaving the room

22 August 2014 by Steve Blum
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As the final days of the current legislature term winds down in Sacramento, two departing lawmakers who play a key role in broadband development reflected on the the past few years. Assemblyman Steven Bradford and senator Alex Padilla (both D – Los Angeles) were participating as members of the California Broadband Council for the last time on Monday.

Bradford spoke particularly about two critical bills that he pushed and prodded through the legislature last year, despite occasionally nasty opposition from incumbents, particularly lobbyists for Comcast and the California cable industry. Assembly bill 1299, which directed California Advanced Services Fund money toward broadband facilities and marketing in public housing projects, was his baby. It was closely tied to senate bill 740, which added $90 million to CASF. As incumbent pressure mounted to kill or cripple the bill, Bradford successfully maneuvered both over the goal line.

Padilla added an historical perspective, talking about the emergence of broadband as a critical state policy concern ten years ago, and the development of CASF into a key source of money for broadband construction. The Digital 395 middle mile broadband project is a particularly good example of how CASF can get infrastructure built. CASF was “imperative as a policy venture to help create that backbone”, he said.

As chairmen of the assembly and senate committees that have primary responsibility for utilities, including telecommunications, Bradford and Padilla are automatically members of the council, as are CPUC president Michael Peevey, California Emerging Technology Fund CEO Sunne Wright McPeak and the heads of several state agencies, some of whom – Carlos Ramos, the state CIO and Mark Ghilarducci, the head of the state’s office of emergency services in particular – also took part.

Term limits mean that both Bradford and Padilla are leaving the legislature. Peevey’s term as CPUC president expires this year as well, and not many people are betting he’ll be reappointed. Of the four core leaders, only McPeak is certain to return. The council began life two years ago in a burst of energy that laid the foundation for the expansion of CASF, but the question now is whether new blood will reinvigorate it next year or if it will slide into a quiet and comfortable middle age.