California is moving quickly to establish a sweeping new broadband middle-mile network that will give more people access to the internet. The state has pinpointed 18 initial projects in diverse regions of the state where this early work will commence, with many more routes to be identified in 2022.
The 18 projects were chosen to jumpstart the state’s $6 billion investment in broadband infrastructure, which was approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in July. That investment included $3.25 billion for a public open-access middle-mile network, as well as $2 billion for last-mile work to provide connections in both rural and urban areas.
Closing the digital divide has been an important focus for California Forward and the California Economic Summit. For too long, too many areas of the state have struggled with absent, inadequate, or unaffordable broadband service. The pandemic amplified the crisis.
The California Forward Action Fund and the California Stewardship Network, working in coalition with partners through the California Economic Summit, supported and encouraged the $6 billion legislative allocation.
“This is about equity and quality of life for real people,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of California Forward. “The investments by the Legislature and governor this past summer were historic and meaningful. Now, just four months later, it is encouraging to see such swift action.”
The 18 projects were announced during a Nov. 17 meeting of the state’s Middle-Mile Advisory Committee. During the meeting, state officials explained that the projects were identified and established through processes undertaken in accordance with Senate Bill 156, the budgetary action that enabled the investments.
Gov. Newsom noted that the projects “represent a range of geographic locations and technical approaches.” Entities involved include the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Department of Technology, Caltrans, and the CENIC California Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative, LLC, which serves as a third-party administrator operating under the network name GoldenStateNet. A number of the projects will be constructed as part of planned Caltrans projects, while others will analyze leasing versus construction opportunities. More information can be found here.
During this year’s California Economic Summit in Monterey, broadband was a spotlighted topic, including: a plenary discussion where regional leaders weighed in, during planning for the Ensuring Broadband for All work group ’s activities for the coming year including supporting Regional Broadband Consortia, and the honoring of California Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry as California Steward Leader of the Year for advancing important legislation to close the digital divide.