New public financing method for broadband clears California senate

5 August 2014 by Steve Blum
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Padilla steps up for local broadband financing.

Broadband would be added to the list of public works projects that cities and counties in California can pay for via infrastructure financing districts (IFDs), under a bill passed by the state senate yesterday on a 36 to 0 floor vote. Assembly bill 2292 started life as a way of financing rail transport at the Port of Oakland, but was gutted and rewritten by assemblyman Rob Bonta (D – Oakland), at the suggestion of San Leandro’s mayor, Stephen Cassidy.

Senator Alex Padilla (D – Los Angeles) – who at times has been a champion of community broadband efforts, but at other times something less than fiery – urged his colleagues to vote in favor of the bill…

As many of you know, access to high speed Internet is increasingly critical, not just in our personal daily communications, but for business. And unfortunately, while most areas of the state do have – if not a single – multiple options for accessing high speed Internet, not all parts of the state do. And the areas that are unserved or underserved are not exclusive to the rural areas of the state. So with cities and counties throughout the state needing creative financing models to help fund these projects and help spur economic development in their communities, the concept of an infrastructure financing district has come about.

There was no debate or discussion. The only group that registered opposition publicly was the California Taxpayers Association, which doesn’t like IFDs of any sort. The next stop for the bill is the assembly floor. Comcast and AT&T are said to be unhappy with the idea, but apparently aren’t sufficiently troubled to apply the necessary pressure to stop it. Yet.

Tellus Venture Associates proudly counts the Cities of San Leandro and Oakland as clients. I haven’t talked to them about AB 2292 – it’s something I’d support regardless of whose idea it is. But even so, it’s a bill that would benefit most of my clients. I’m not a disinterested commentator; take it for what it’s worth.