Decisions coming soon on California broadband bills

7 October 2015 by Steve Blum
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Not quite yet.

Sunday is the last day for California governor Jerry Brown to either veto bills passed by the legislature this summer, or allow them to become law. Amongst the measures in the big stack on his desk right now are several that will affect broadband service and infrastructure, particularly in regards to how it’s regulated.

The bill with the most potential impact is assembly bill 57, which would put teeth in the Federal Communications Commission shot clock for wireless permits. The FCC says that local governments have five months to approve or deny applications for new wireless facilities and three months to deal with changes to existing ones. When local governments miss that deadline, a wireless company can ask a court to, in effect, grant the permit. It’s a time consuming way to go about it, though, and can take as long or longer than just seeing the normal process through. So it rarely happens.

What AB 57 would do is turn the table on cities and counties, and make them go to court to stop the permit from being automatically granted. The bill sailed through the legislature with healthy bipartisan majorities, but the list of no votes grew longer as time went on. That due in great part to the vehement opposition from local governments and their lobbying organisations, who are undoubtedly applying to same to the governor.

Five other bills – AB 825, AB 1023, SB 48, SB 215 and SB 660 – make changes to the way the California Public Utilities Commission does business. SB 660 would have the biggest effect. Among other things, it would put tighter restrictions on private conversations between regulated utilities (and other interested parties) and commissioners and staff.

Typically, governor Brown has given no indication as to which way he’s leaning on any of the measures.