Broadband Frequently Asked Questions

Broadband Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the broadband bills currently active in the Legislature?

  • AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry) Internet for All Act of 2021: prioritizes the deployment of broadband infrastructure in California’s most vulnerable and unserved rural and urban communities by extending the ongoing collection of funds deposited into the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to provide communities with grants to bridge the digital divide. Defines an unserved household eligible for CASF funds as one for which there is no broadband provider offering service at a speed of at least 6 megabits per second (mbps) downstream and 1 mbps upstream. This legislation is a critical step towards expediting the deployment if broadband infrastructure throughout the state. AB 14 provides a vital pathway to connect California’s workforce to gainful employment, harness the life-saving technology of telemedicine and sustain economic transactions in times of emergencies. Currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
     
  • AB 41 (Wood) Broadband Infrastructure Deployment: will update California’s “dig once” policy for Caltrans to help expedite the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities to include a provision for more transparency on the part of providers about planned deployment. Currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
     
  • AB 1425 (Gipson) CA Advanced Services Fund: Broadband Public Housing Account: beginning January 2022, will transfer $25 million to the Broadband Public Housing Account for providing grants to finance broadband projects. AB 1425 seeks to ensure that all low-income residents in publicly subsidized housing have access to high-speed internet services sufficient to support distance learning, telehealth, and much more. Currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
     
  • SB 4 (Gonzalez) The Broadband for All Act: will secure continuous funding and implement a number of critically needed reforms to the CA Advanced Services Fund (CASF) program administered by the CA Public Utilities Commission. Additionally, SB 4 recognizes that a long-term commitment is needed to develop future-proof infrastructure, and extend the 2022 subset for 10 more years on the CASF surcharge. SB 4 ensures oversight and transparency by requiring a biennial audit of the program and caps the surcharge collection at $150 million per year. Currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
     
  • SB 28 (Caballero) Rural Broadband and DIVCA Reform Act of 2021: helps close the digital divide that separates California into broadband have and have nots. First, this bill requires the Dept of General Services, the Dept of Transportation, the Dept of Education, and the Dept of Technology to identify all state real properties, rights of ways, and other resources suitable for a public/private partnership for broadband. Second, reforms the Digital Infrastructure Video Competition Act of 2006 (DIVCA) in order to ensure that licenses are meeting their obligations under DIVCA. Currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

 

Is there more information on broadband access in our region?

  • A Broadband Access report on AD 30 was done by San Jose State at the request of Assemblymember Rivas. This report found that access in AD 30 is haphazard and inequitably distributed. However, this is not just an issue of access, but also an issue of baseline infrastructure. The minimum is not sufficient to serve such purposes as remote schooling, working from home, and given the prohibitive cost of high-speed service for some households or extensive simultaneous internet usage in a household (i.e. multiple children attending virtual school or adults in the home working simultaneously) over taxes household network capacity.

What are next steps to close the digital divide?

  • The funding allocated will provide opportunity for the construction of a state-owned open access middle mile network and support local stakeholders (cities, counties, school districts) to build out last-mile infrastructure for unserved and underserved communities. These local stakeholders are critical to helping close this divide as they can identify, or may have already identified, the broadband needs of their community. Furthermore, they can tailor these needs to the constituency they serve, better understanding the service gaps within a diverse area that may include both rural and urban middle- and last-mile infrastructure needs.

How does this legislation support low-income communities?

  • Under the Broadband Public Housing Accounts, grants and loans shall be made available to low-income communities to finance projects to connect broadband networks that offer free broadband service that meets or exceeds state standards, as determined by the commission, for residents of the low-income communities.

How does this legislation support rural communities?

  • The broadband budget bill is a historic bill committed to a generational investment in providing all Californians the necessary tools for better broadband infrastructure. AB/SB 156 supports rural communities by increasing internet access for families and businesses in poor and rural areas.

What does the Broadband Budget bill include?

  • This legislation (AB/SB 156) is the three-party agreement to achieve equitable statewide access to high-speed broadband internet service.
    • $3.25 Billion Middle-Mile Funding: This package creates a structure and framework for the construction of state-owned open-access middle-mile broadband infrastructure. This language prioritizes, for middle-mile construction, a geographically diverse group of projects in rural and urban areas of the state to achieve the greatest reductions in the number of households unserved by broadband internet access service meeting federal and state standards.
      • Specifically:
        • Provides for the Department of Technology (CTA) to oversee the acquisition and management of a statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network.
        • Requires the Public Utilities Commission, in collaboration with the third-party administrator, to identify and prioritize statewide open-access middle-mile locations.
        • Requires CDT to establish a broadband advisory committee, with legislative appointments, and includes reporting measures.
        • Gives CEQA exemption to projects consisting of broadband deployment.
    • $2 Billion Last-Mile Funding: This package modifies the existing California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to revise and update program administration and grant eligibility criteria. The bill also establishes a new Federal Funding Account within CASF.
      • Specifically:
        • $1 billion for rural communities and $1 billion for urban counties (first $5 million for last-mile broadband projects in each rural county and remaining funds will be available to share with households without broadband internet access).
        • Expands the list of local agencies authorized to provide broadband internet access service to include counties, local education agencies, tribal governments, joint power authorities, and electrical cooperatives.
        • Prioritizes funding for projects in areas with speeds below 10mbps downstream and 1mbps upstream.
        • Updates the speed requirement for infrastructure projects funded to be at least 100mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream service speeds, or the most current speed set by the Federal Communication Commission.
    • Establishment of a Broadband Loan Loss Reserve Funding: This bill creates a continuously appropriated loan-loss fund to assist local governments and non-profits in financing broadband service projects. The budget includes $750 million in total funds for this purpose.
       
  • AB/ SB 156 also includes:
    • More vital accountability and legislative oversight.
    • Creating a ‘broadband czar’ and nine-member council within the California Department of Technology.
    • Hiring a third party to build and maintain the ‘middle-mile network’ – high-capacity fiber lines that carry large amounts of data at higher speeds over longer distances between local networks.
    • Allowing a county to construct, improve and maintain broadband infrastructure.
    • Requiring the Public Utilities Commission to conduct a biennial fiscal audit of the implementation and effectiveness of the CA Advanced Services Funding beginning on April 1, 2023.

What are the timelines for broadband spending?

  • AB/SB 156 includes the following timelines, they are:
  • On or before March 1, 2022, and annually thereafter, the office, in consultation with the department and the Department of Finance, shall report to both budget committees of the Legislature all of the following:
    • (A) The total length of the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network.
    • (B) The length of the portion of the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network constructed in the preceding year, by quarter.
    • (C) The number of internet service providers using the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network.
    • (D) The number of households projected to connect to the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network.
    • (E) The total expenditures for each project, by quarter.
    • (F) The projected goals for each of the metrics described in subparagraphs (A) to (E), inclusive, for the 18 months following the reports.
  • The goal of the Broadband Infrastructure Grant Account is, no later than December 31, 2026, to approve funding for infrastructure projects that will provide broadband access to no less than 98 percent of California households in each consortia region.
  • The Broadband Loan Loss Reserve Fund is hereby established in the State Treasury. In the 2021–22 fiscal year, the commission may make cash flow loans to the Broadband Loan Loss Reserve Fund.

How can local residents be involved in moving pending legislation forward?

  • Individuals are encouraged to email and call their state representative to voice their support for broadband legislative bills. To find out who your representative is click here. Individuals are also encouraged to submit positions letters to policy and fiscal committees, to find out more information click here.