Last chance to speak your mind on changes to California broadband subsidies

30 June 2013 by Steve Blum
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Expect a united front from industry lobbyists.

Monday and Tuesday will likely be the final opportunity for public comments on new money and rules for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF). Two proposals – senate bill 740 and assembly bill 1299 – are set for committee hearings. If approved, the bills head back into the machinery of the legislative process, which operates behind closed doors for the most part.

SB 740 is first up. It’s considered by the assembly utilities and commerce committee on Monday afternoon. It’s been the more controversial of the two. As amended last week, it would add another $90 million to CASF and make relatively modest changes to the rules governing it. The way the cards fall on the table now, $65 million would go towards broadband infrastructure subsidies, with the remaining $25 million funding the public housing initiative in AB 1299.

Industry lobbyists pushed hard to gut SB 740 earlier this year. The senate energy, utilities and communications committee made them happy by taking out any new money and wrapping up what was left in legal knots. Negotiations last week undid much of that mischief, leaving what might be a workable compromise on the table. We’ll see what happens to it in the assembly committee.

On Tuesday morning, the senate committee looks at AB 1299, which directs $25 million from CASF towards broadband facilities and promotion in public housing projects. It also has some treats for industry lobbyists, in particular it would require public housing operators to open their doors to cable companies before they could apply for grants.

Both hearings are open to the public and include time for comments from the audience.