Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Bill to Fund Broadband Infrastructure Moves Forward

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 7:15 PM

click to enlarge The Public Utilities Commission map of the proposed extension of broadband. - PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
  • PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
  • The Public Utilities Commission map of the proposed extension of broadband.
The California Senate Committee on Energy Utilities and Communications approved a bill (SB 1130) that would allocate $300 million to fund broadband infrastructure "where none currently provides the service," reads a press release from Access Humboldt.

According to the release, North Coast Sen. Mike McGuire voted in favor of the measure, which is supported by Access Humboldt and the California Center for Rural Policy, along with 30 other organizations.

"The pandemic has clearly shown us that California is overdue to build the networks we need to provide universal access to open, secure internet,' Access Humboldt's Executive Director Sean Taketa McLaughlin said in the release. "Thanks to our State Sen. Mike McGuire for his support of the measure today.  Clearly, we cannot afford to leave students behind, to leave workers behind, to leave healthcare behind, to leave our families behind.  Our communities cannot afford to be uninformed or misinformed. Robust, resilient broadband media are necessary for our community and our anchor institutions, including local media, to meet local needs for public health & safety, for education, for community and economic development; for culture and arts, and for civic engagement." 

The bill will need to go to a full vote on the Senate floor before advancing to the Assembly for further consideration.

Read the full press release below: 

California Senate Advances Broadband Infrastructure Funding (SB 1130)
$300 Million to fund fast, open network connections to bridge the digital divideSenator McGuire votes in favor of SB 1130

Sacramento/Eureka, California
California Senate Committee on Energy Utilities and Communications today approved a bill (SB 1130 - Gonzalez) to fund broadband infrastructure where none currently provides adequate service.  SB 1130 has support from two local Humboldt organizations, Access Humboldt and the California Center for Rural Policy, along with more than thirty other organizations that filed a letter of support (attached), including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), Common Sense, Public Knowledge and Reddit.  Opponents include California Cable Telecommunications Association, AT&T and other private telecom and cable interests.

SB 1130 was authored by Senator Gonzalez, addressing Telecommunications: California Advanced Services Fundhttps://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB1130
North Coast Senator Mike McGuire voted in favor of the measure.

Access Humboldt's executive director Sean Taketa McLaughlin offered this public comment:"The pandemic has clearly shown us that California is overdue to build the networks we need to provide universal access to open, secure internet.  Thanks to our State Senator Mike McGuire for his support of the measure today.  Clearly, we cannot afford to leave students behind, to leave workers behind, to leave health care behind, to leave our families behind.  Our communities cannot afford to be uninformed or misinformed.  Robust, resilient broadband media are necessary for our community and our anchor institutions, including local media, to meet local needs for public health & safety, for education, for community and economic development; for culture and arts, and for civic engagement.
The call for better network standards including essential quality of openness in SB 1130 is near and dear to local community media interests.  Sorry to see the amendment that took away the important quality of network symmetry.  Access Humboldt creates, shares and originates content all around our Redwood Coast region - and our key network requirements are open access and upload capacity to support live origination.  Asymmetric networks provide less opportunity for local origination and more profit for the network's absentee owners.  So, industry profit seekers will object. But we are calling for symmetric network capacity to give our local communities a voice!"

The coalition letter noted:

"The state law currently prevents the California Public Utilities Commission from funding modern high-speed broadband infrastructure if a community has a broadband provider offering a long-outdated DSL connection at 6 mbps download by 1 mbps upload. This standard—which even a decades-old copper network from the era of the AT&T monopoly can meet—prevents the state from systemically addressing the challenges residents have faced under COVID-19. As a result, more than $300 million of state dollars sit idle while your constituents face a broadband crisis at home."

And further: "The state must do more and be future-focused. An investment in high-capacity networks will also expand the reach of high-speed wireless services, as SB 1130 ensures that state-financed infrastructure must be open access."
FInally:"By focusing on the future with high-capacity, open infrastructure, making sure that low income and rural communities can access these funds to build these networks, and freeing up the hundreds of millions of dollars that sit idle in state coffers during a time of emergency, we can ensure that efforts to resolve the digital divide will stand the test of time."


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Iridian Casarez

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Iridian Casarez is a staff writer at the North Coast Journal.

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