California signs broadband subsidies into law


California Governor Brown has signed two local broadband subsidy bills into law. Senate bill 740 and assembly bill 1299 will provide approximately $90 million for broadband projects in the state.

As CivSource previously reported, the road to getting these bills passed has been rocky. A portion of the subsidies – specifically $90 million for the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) was almost tabled indefinitely by telecommunications providers who contend that underserved regions are actually overbuilt.

This subsidy would allow cities and independent service providers in California to apply for loans and grants to build out local broadband networks. The conditions under which these awards would be granted are already fairly restrictive, but the move by telecommunications providers follows a broader playbook by providers to end municipal networks even in areas where there are no plans to build private ones.

The assembly bill will use part of the $90 million allowed for in the Senate measure and provide support to public housing authorities. The housing authority could then build out broadband access networks that are marketed to residents of public housing, presumably at a lower rate.

The remaining money from the Senate measure will be awarded by the California Public Utilities Commission. State broadband supporters expect that the number will climb from $90 million to $200 million by around 2020.