California’s next governor talks the broadband talk, but will he walk the walk?

9 November 2018 by Steve Blum
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California governor-elect Gavin Newsom has a broadband development track record of sorts. Whether that will translate into sound telecoms infrastructure policy remains to be seen.

When he was mayor of San Francisco, Newsom made a big splash with a deal with Google and Earthlink to blanket the city with WiFi, with free service playing a prominent role in a difficult to understand business plan. That was back during the great municipal WiFi bubble of the mid–2000s. The deal collapsed, but Newsom pushed on with a small ball program to install WiFi hot spots, including in public housing communities.

Newsom didn’t talk much about it during the campaign, but broadband rated a mention on his website

We can’t build an innovation culture with global reach or reap the benefits of the information age without the capacity to send and receive vast amounts of information. As Governor, Gavin will align infrastructure decisions with regional strategies, pursue new and creative approaches to financing including Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts [EIFDs] and the new state bank, and lead the movement to make universal access to high-speed broadband a reality for every Californian.

It’s not exactly a jump over the big hurdle – finding the money to pay for modern broadband infrastructure – but at least there are a couple of small hops in front of it. EIFDs were supposed to be a fast track to bond financing, backed by the tax revenue that was expected to result from infrastructure-driven economic growth. Assembly bill 1999, passed by the California legislature and signed by governor Jerry Brown earlier this year, specifically allows EIFDs to get into the broadband business.

But pretty much everything under the sun rates a line or two in Newsom’s encyclopedic campaign platform. Whether any given issue makes it from the wish list to the to do list is anyone’s guess.