$6 Billion Broadband Investment Passes Legislature
July 15, 2021
In a significant victory for counties and our coalition allies, the Legislature today passed SB 156, which provides for a historic $6 billion investment in broadband infrastructure. CSAC organized and led a coalition of dozens of organizations in promoting and supporting the bill, including local government, schools, hospitals, economic development, labor, civil rights, upward mobility, disability rights, and many more.
The bills will benefit residents across the state, connecting millions of families and businesses by providing $2 billion for last-mile network construction in both rural and urban centers of California ($1 billion each). Within those designations, the funds will be allocated by the number of unserved and underserved residents, ensuring the funds flow where they are needed most.
Last mile investment dollars will be even better leveraged by the $3.25 billion earmarked to construct a statewide open-access middle mile network, an essential first step towards increasing connectivity and affordability for all by making it easier for more internet providers to provide faster, cheaper service throughout the state. This is especially important for the nearly 15 million Californians who live in a broadband monopoly.
An additional $750 million will act as a loan loss reserve specifically designed to leverage even greater broadband infrastructure investments by local governments, tribal governments, and non-profits.
This legislation utilizes billions in one-time federal funds to provide a permanent benefit by building broadband infrastructure throughout every region of the state.
SB 156 also makes a number of important reforms to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), through which last-mile subsidies are allocated, to level the playing field for counties, nonprofits, tribal governments, and smaller broadband providers.
This is great progress but there is still work to be done. Counties will continue to work with the Legislature, the Administration, and our many coalition allies over the summer and fall to pass legislation that will ensure affordable access for all.