Democrats in D.C. and Sacramento in sync on fast fiber for broadband. So far

9 July 2020 by Steve Blum
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Sunesys build freedom blvd 625

If you can’t get high quality broadband service with at least 25 Mbps download and upload speeds, then you’re unserved according to a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill passed on a partisan vote by democrats in the federal house of representatives. $80 billion of that money is set aside for broadband service upgrades, with symmetrical 100 Mbps service considered the minimum acceptable and preference given to subsidised projects that deliver 1 Gbps down and up.

Unlike California, republicans matter in D.C. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky) scoffed at the house infrastructure bill, saying “naturally this nonsense is not going anywhere”. That doesn’t take meaningful broadband subsidies off the table, though. With unemployment at historic levels in an election year, a big, job-creating infrastructure bill will be popular on both sides of the aisle.

The 25 Mbps down/up eligibility standard and the 100 Mbps down/up construction standard track with a bill that’s moving through the California legislature. Senate bill 1130 doesn’t go quite that far – symmetrical 100 Mbps infrastructure is a goal, not a requirement – but even with the weasel words it’s a quantum leap from California’s pitiful 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up minimum. It’s the difference between 1990s DSL and 2020s fiber.

So far, California democrats have stayed in sync with their Washington, D.C. colleagues. All California senate democrats voted in favor of SB 1130, along with a lone republican. The bill was sent over to the assembly and is on track for a hearing in the communications and conveyances committee.

The big question is whether democrats on the committee – 10 out of 12 members – follow the party line or channel their inner GOP animal spirits, as they have on broadband subsidies and network neutrality in the past. The committee was scheduled to consider SB 1130 next week, but it’s on indefinite hold now, with the legislature shut down until further notice because of a covid–19 outbreak in the capitol.