California senate committee lets industry lobbyists rewrite broadband subsidy rules

8 May 2013 by Steve Blum
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Oh, please, monsieur. It is a little game we play. They put it on the bill, I tear up the bill. It is very convenient.

The latest version of a proposed bill to add money to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) and extend eligibility beyond traditional telephone companies is bad news for everyone except incumbent cable and telephone companies.

Last week, the senate energy, utilities and communications committee approved senate bill 740 on the basis of a promise by the measure’s author, Alex Padilla (D – Los Angeles), to make it more to the liking of the lobbyists from AT&T, Verizon, Frontier and the cable industry who testified at the hearing.… More

California senate committee guts broadband infrastructure funding, for now

30 April 2013 by Steve Blum
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“Just raising a number of concerns,” said the phone guy.

Additional money for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) is on hold. The sponsor of a bill – SB 740 – to refill the fund with $100 million over five years, senator Alex Padilla (D – Los Angeles), pulled the money off the table today. He said he wanted to wait and see what happens to the more than $200 million in grant applications that are pending before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).… More

California love fest for public housing broadband subsidies

29 April 2013 by Steve Blum
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Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen fiber?

The California Assembly’s utilities and commerce committee considered a bill today – AB 1299 – to direct $25 million from the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) toward wiring public housing complexes and encouraging residents to subscribe to broadband service.

No one was opposed. Lobbyists for AT&T, Verizon, Frontier and the cable industry all spoke in favor, which was no surprise. They’re naturally inclined to support something that reduces construction subsidies for competitors and will likely increase their subscriber count.… More

Broadband subsidy plan for both infrastructure and public housing taking shape in California legislature

28 April 2013 by Steve Blum
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It’s easy. Just build a bigger barrel.

There’s a deal forming in Sacramento to generate money for public housing projects and the non-profit organisations that orbit them by refilling the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) in a way that also maintains a healthy balance for broadband infrastructure subsidies. Two separate CASF-related proposals in the state legislature are being shaped to complement each other, if not converge into a single bill.

Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D – Los Angeles) wants to spend $25 million from CASF on wiring public housing projects for broadband and paying non-profit groups to run broadband promotion programs in those neighborhoods.… More

Sweets for cable companies could sour public housing broadband grants

27 April 2013 by Steve Blum
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In a horse trade, it’s not just the horse that can get taken for a ride.

Cable television lobbyists in Sacramento seem to be earning their pay checks. A proposed revision to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) has a couple of very nice presents for the industry. Assembly bill 1299, which will be heard by the utilities and commerce committee on Monday, gives benefits to cable companies which might have the perverse effect of discouraging public housing authorities from pursuing broadband projects.… More

New Californian broadband subsidy priorities take shape

26 April 2013 by Steve Blum
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Committee chair Steven Bradford wants more money for urban organizations.

Next week may determine the future of the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), which provides subsidies for broadband infrastructure in underserved (and unserved) areas of the state. Two bills will be aired in front of two committees – one in the state senate, SB 740, the other in the assembly, AB 1299.

SB 740, which will be heard by the senate energy, utilities and communications committee on Tuesday, would add $100 million to the fund by extending a fee that’s tacked on to phone bills and allow a greater range of broadband providers to apply.… More

Serving urban homes means adapting CASF to urban broadband business models

11 April 2013 by Steve Blum
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Sometimes the last mile is a matter of feet.

Urban areas haven’t benefited from California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) infrastructure subsidies. All of the 34 broadband projects approved in past years and the 29 currently under review are in rural areas of the state. Two reasons account for it, one conceptual and other structural.

To be eligible for CASF infrastructure subsidies, an area has to at least qualify as underserved, which means there’s no broadband service available that delivers at least 6 Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload speeds.… More

Who gets CASF money is first decision on California legislative agenda, how much comes later

4 April 2013 by Steve Blum
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Structurally sound or not, the cake gets cut.

The debate over whether to give priority to public housing programs when California broadband initiatives are funded continues on 15 April 2013, when the Assembly utilities and commerce committee is scheduled to formally consider assembly bill 1299.

It would require the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to give particular consideration to urban public housing projects for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) grants. It would also allow money previously set aside to build broadband infrastructure to also be spent on broadband adoption programs.… More

Party power (or lack thereof) shapes California broadband spending plans

19 March 2013 by Steve Blum
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The practical side of political alignment.

More than two-thirds of the seats in both the California Assembly and Senate are held by Democrats. That means it’s possible to add money to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) and change its direction with no support at all from Republicans and no fear of losing the political cover a supermajority vote provides.
During hearings and meetings in Sacramento last week, Democrats focused almost exclusively on using CASF to increase the number of Californians who use the Internet.… More

Urban issues take the lead at Sacramento broadband meetings

15 March 2013 by Steve Blum
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Not this meeting. Ours took longer and no decision was made. But at least we were co-ed.

Digital literacy and broadband adoption – the wired kind anyway – were high on most priority lists in Sacramento this week. Broadband infrastructure, well, not so much. For four days, various (directly and indirectly) state-funded broadband groups met with agency and legislative staff, policy makers and telecoms companies. Much of the talk was about social service and educational programs, and how to fund them.… More