California dig once broadband conduit bill heard and held

2 August 2016 by Steve Blum
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Wasn’t Caltrans supposed to tell us about this?

The California legislature returned from its summer break yesterday, and immediately got to work on broadband-related issues. The big one on the table yesterday was assembly bill 1549.

Testifying in front of the senate appropriations committee, the bill’s author, assemblyman Jim Wood (D – Healdsburg) said that Caltrans isn’t following an executive order by then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger directing it to cooperate with broadband development efforts, and was lackadaisical about the one open trench pilot program that it ran…

AB 1549 puts in statute many of the requirements of the executive order from 2006. Why the need for a legislative solution? Because Caltrans failed to notify broadband consortiums – the small guys – and only notified the large providers. The pilot program did not work because consortiums who work day in and day out to increase broadband access had no idea the program even existed. It’s been 10 years since that executive order and nothing has really happened and most of my district does not have access to high speed Internet. Caltrans current central database of state-owned non-highway properties available to broadband providers does not work. My staff had a meeting with Caltrans where seven Caltrans staffers struggled to provide an answer to the simple question of ‘where does a broadband consortium get this information?’…Frankly, I’m tired of waiting and the excuses. My district can’t wait any longer.

Others spoke in support of the bill at the hearing, including representatives from the Placer County Board of Supervisors, the Rural County Representatives of California and, refreshingly, the California Cable and Telecommunications Association – its members have as much to gain from better cooperation by Caltrans as anyone else.

The one sour note came from the state finance department. Its representative said they were opposed but didn’t offer any basis for their position.

The senate appropriations committee put the bill into the “suspense file”, which means it’s on hold until sometime closer to the end of month, when legislative leaders will decide whether or not to let it move forward.