CSAC Bulletin Article

Historic Broadband Investment Signed, Work Continues

July 22, 2021

In a significant victory for counties, coalition allies, and all Californians, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 156 into law this week, providing a historic $6 billion investment in broadband infrastructure. The investment prioritizes construction in communities with little or no broadband access in both rural and urban areas.

The bill includes investments for last-mile fiber that provides service directly to homes and businesses by allocating $2 billion over three years to the CPUC’s capital expenditure subsidy program, CASF. It also includes a statewide open-access middle-mile network ($3.25 billion), which will be available to any internet provider on non-discriminatory terms, making it faster and cheaper for internet providers to build additional last-mile infrastructure into communities with limited options. The middle-mile network will be owned by the state, built along much of the state’s highway system, and will be overseen by the Department of Technology.

Also included in SB 156 is a $750 million loan-loss reserve account, which will be available to local agencies, JPAs, tribal governments, and nonprofits that would like to build broadband networks. The loan-loss reserve will make it easier for interested entities to obtain outside financing at more favorable rates.

As the Legislature begins its summer recess, there is still work to be done. CSAC and its broadband coalition partners look forward to working with the Administration over the summer to pass legislation that will ensure affordable broadband access for all. A provision that was included in an earlier version of the Governor’s proposal would have extended the state’s LifeLine assistance for telephone service to also include broadband. For now, the federal government is providing this assistance to households that can’t afford broadband service, but that program ends later this year.

The coalition includes the California State Association of Counties, Rural County Representatives of California, Urban Counties of California, California Association of School Business Officials, California Hospital Association, California Forward Action Fund, California School Boards Association, Small School Districts’ Association, and NextGen California.

View the coalition’s news release on the broadband investment here

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