California Pushes to End Broadband Inequality with SB 1130

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California Senator Lena Gonzalez introduced SB 1130 last week to end the state’s inequality in broadband access caused by what she says is a lack of state policy promoting competition and 21st-century readiness.

According to the legislative text, the new bill amends the current California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), the state’s broadband infrastructure program, to provide connectivity for residents sheltered at home due to coronavirus and to leverage California with international competitors in the race to complete infrastructure for the deployment of 5G.

BroadbandNow analytics report 1.3 million people in California do not have access to a 25 Mbps wired connection, while another 889,000 don’t have any wired internet providers available where they live. Gonzalez’s push to pass SB 1130 comes with some criticism of CASF’s original goals that were provisioned around a DSL-connected internet world. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said the CASF program set the bar too low on its definition of “served” with internet access. “It is a backwards-looking policy, particularly at a time when others in Europe, in advanced Asian markets like South Korea, and in China have gone all-in on fiber-to-the-home,” according to the non-profit. “If you set your goals super-low so that most communities are considered ‘served’ by broadband, it makes vast swaths of the state ineligible for investments simply because they have decades-old DSL networks.”

As Californians conduct work and school from home during the coronavirus crisis, SB 1130 addresses the issue that all state residents need to be digitally connected. Gonzalez’s measure focuses on expanding broadband connectivity by safeguarding that state-financed fiber is open to all wireless entities. Open access guidelines are recommended to promote competition and create opportunities for fiber providers to build infrastructure and lease capacity to others that sell broadband.

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