Reporting

Compromise on Broadband Bills Necessary to Address California’s Digital Crisis

August 10, 2020 by Micah Weinberg


(Photo: Mathieu Thouvenin/Flickr)

Bridging the digital divide and providing fast, affordable broadband to all Californians is a top priority for California Forward and its partners in the California Economic Summit. The urgency of taking action has been heightened by the pandemic and its hardships for schools, businesses, and community institutions. Fortunately, California legislators are taking steps to address this crisis by advancing legislation with potential to make a real difference.  

As they work with the administration to address this issue, there are three key elements that are crucial to address this year: funding, speed and regulatory reform.

On August 3, key Assembly and Senate committees took separate steps to move forward two bills – SB 1130 by by Sen. Lena Gonzalez of Long Beach and AB 570 by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of Winters. The bills are marked by some different elements and solutions, as well as diverse constituencies, which is natural when confronting such a massive and complex issue.

But both contain timely, critical, and achievable mechanisms for better serving both rural and urban communities struggling with poor or non-existing broadband service. The bills also are in harmony with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s commitment to achieving “Broadband for All” in California, which his administration announced at the 2019 California Economic Summit in Fresno, and with the work of his Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery in addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

California Forward has followed this legislative process closely, and developed Broadband Legislation Principles to encourage those advancing the bills to come together on legislation that can be signed into law as soon as possible.  

Among these three are the most critical and urgent:

  • Funding: Extend California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) collections to continue this key funding stream for accelerating deployment and adoption of broadband for all Californians,
  • Speed: Prioritize CASF funding with approved projects providing access at speeds of at a minimum 25 mbps downstream/3 mbps upstream, and
  • Reform: Streamline processes for accelerating deployment and adoption especially addressing the incumbent challenge process.

Compromise on the bills is essential and would mark a key step in helping to close California’s digital divide and ensuring that all Californians have access to this essential 21st century infrastructure.

Micah Weinberg is CEO of California Forward.