Broadband Legislation Inches Closer to Finish Line
September 9, 2021
On Wednesday evening, the Assembly narrowly approved one of the key measures needed to close California’s Digital Divide. SB 4 by Senator Lena Gonzalez squeaked by with 55 “aye” votes, just one more vote than the 2/3 votes approval required. The Senate passed the bill late this morning and it now heads to the Governor’s desk. Coupled with AB 14 by Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, which is pending on the Assembly floor at the time of this writing, these two bills ensure that critical broadband infrastructure funding does not expire. View CSAC’s coalition floor alert here.
Funded by an end-user surcharge on revenues collected by telecommunications carriers, the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) was created to provide grants for last-mile broadband infrastructure and related services. CSAF was reauthorized in 2017 with the statutory goal to provide broadband access to at least 98 percent of Californians statewide and in each region, but that goal remains unmet. Despite investments, millions of California still lack access to reliable, affordable broadband service.
SB 4 extends the operation of CASF through the end of 2032, increases the annual limit on funds CASF can collect from $66 million to $150 million, and removes the cumulative cap of the Fund. The companion measure, AB 14, extends the sunset on the CASF surcharge from the end of 2022 to the end of 2032 and closes a loophole that allows VoIP providers to avoid the charge, ensuring the burden is not unfairly shifted to other telecom customers.
CSAC strongly supports both SB 4 and AB 14, which each require the other to pass in order to go into effect (an arrangement called “contingent enactment.”) These measures are critical to maximizing the impact of the recent $6 billion investment in broadband projects approved through the passage of SB 156 and finally closing California’s Digital Divide. CSAC will continue to advocate strongly for both measures before the Legislature adjourns for the year late Friday night.