Decisions this week on key California broadband bills

23 May 2016 by Steve Blum
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It all comes down to the wire.

With deadlines looming this week and next, broadband-related bills are queued up in Sacramento, awaiting decisions. The committee to watch is the assembly appropriations committee, which has to vote on a constitutional amendment to disband the California Public Utilities Commission and on AT&T’s attempt to get out of the rural wireline broadband and phone business.

AT&T’s copper killer bill – assembly bill 2395 – is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, while the CPUC measure – assembly constitutional amendment 11 – is sitting in a stack of bills that might or might not come to a vote. AB 2395 and ACA 11 need yes votes from the appropriations committee by Friday, or they’re dead. Not dead beyond all hope of resurrection – there are ample parliamentary maneuvers that could be made – but dead for all practical purposes.

The appropriations committee is where legislative leaders can weigh in on controversial measures. If the leadership likes it enough to give its blessing, it’s a fair bet that AB 2395 will be approved by the full assembly before the following week’s deadline – it only requires a simple majority vote to continue on to the senate. ACA 11 needs a two-thirds majority, so the road ahead is rockier, but if legislative leaders send it to a floor vote, that’s a good indication that it has a fighting chance.

The joint legislative audit committee – made up of members from both the assembly and senate – will be considering a request on Wednesday from assemblyman Mike Gatto (D – Los Angeles) to conduct an audit of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and the CPUC’s California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). It doesn’t look like a friendly request. Gatto is the author of ACA 11 and was the key player who squashed a proposal to reboot CASF. He’s also been at odds with CETF, after trading barbs in Sacramento Bee op ed pieces.

I’ve advocated for and helped to draft CASF legislation and other broadband bills, and worked alongside CETF and others in the process. I’m involved and proud of it. Take it for what it’s worth.