Two small – for now – broadband bills advance in Sacramento

30 January 2016 by Steve Blum
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One side makes you bigger, one side makes you small…

A move to force Caltrans to play nice with broadband companies – at least, a little nice in little while – and some minor tinkering with the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) infrastructure subsidy program are moving forward in Sacramento.

The state assembly unanimously passed AB 1549, authored by Healdsburg assemblyman Jim Wood. As currently written, it would require Caltrans to make information available about conduit it installs in its own projects. In the future. Pushback from the agency resulted in the requirement being trimmed back. It would only apply to conduit Caltrans installs from 2017 on. Its existing, and extensive, inventory of conduit is effectively a bureaucratic secret and could remain so even if the bill passes. But the important thing is that Wood beat tomorrow’s deadline for getting it out of the assembly and into the senate, where there will be more time and more opportunities to wrangle over the details.

A second bill made the trip in the opposite direction. Senate bill 745 lengthens the list of organisations that may specifically be part of regional broadband consortiums funded by CASF – probably needlessly because the list is already pretty inclusive and final discretion is still in the hands of the California Public Utilities Commission. It also requires the CPUC to include a county by county breakout of CASF money expended in its annual reports.

Neither provision is a big deal, but the fact that it’s sponsored by San Diego democrat Ben Hueso is significant. He’s the chairman of the senate’s energy, utilities and communications committee, which makes him one of the key broadband policy makers in California. As the bill moves forward, it also could change significantly. It’s worth watching.