Governor Brown contemplates a stack of broadband decisions

13 September 2016 by Steve Blum
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Say yes to the trench.

Although it isn’t as high or as deep as originally hope, governor Brown has a significant pile of broadband-related bills that he’ll have to work through by the end of the month.

My favorite is assembly bill 1549 by assemblyman Jim Wood (D – Healdsburg). It started out as an ambitious attempt to bring Caltrans around to the idea that fiber and conduit are transportation infrastructure too. It won a series of unanimous votes as it moved through the legislature, but in the end it was considerably trimmed back to satisfy Brown, who was more accepting of Caltrans’ opposition to the bill. But even without comprehensive dig once requirements, it does help to open up highway projects to participation by local governments and Internet service providers, and it’ll bring Caltrans to the table to at least discuss better information flow about broadband construction opportunities. It’s progress and it’s welcome. The governor has said he’ll sign it.

Senate bill 745 by senator Ben Hueso (D – San Diego) extends the deadline for funding broadband facilities in public housing, via the California Advanced Services Fund. Last minute changes to the bill would reverse earlier legislation and ban subsidies for public housing communities served by cable or telephone companies. That mean spirited move is partially offset by the watering down of restrictions on low income people who receive telephone and broadband lifeline subsidies. As originally written, AB 2570, by assemblyman Bill Quirk (D – Hayward) would have limited the ability of lifeline customers to change carriers. Now, it just tells the CPUC to come up with its own anti-switching rules and consider imposing the bill’s original 60-day lock-in period. The governor’s opinion of either bill is unknown.

SB 1008 fast tracks an LA public safety wireless network – I wrote about it yesterday.

He also has the remains of the grand compromise to overhaul the California Public Utilities Committee on his desk. There’s more detail here on SB 215 and SB 512, which he’s expected to sign, and SB 62, which has a less certain fate.

A semi-related measure, AB 650 by assemblyman Evan Low (D – Silicon Valley) would give primary responsibility for regulating taxi cabs to a state agency determined by the governor, to level the playing field with transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. Right now, taxis are regulated city by city. The bill contains an implicit assumption that this kind of transportation oversight would be taken out of the CPUC’s hands via AB 2903, which died in the final minutes of the legislative session. One way to resolve dilemma would be for the governor to veto AB 650, but there’s no indication of what he’s going to do.

I advocated for and helped to draft AB 1549, and was involved in SB 745. I’m not a disinterested commentator, and don’t want to be. Take it for what it’s worth.