On May 18th, NCC joined allied organizations in a letter to the California State Assembly Committee on Budget, supporting Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposal to invest $7 billion in broadband infrastructure for a publicly-owned open access middle mile fiber network. Along with the network, the Governor’s plan would include long-term financing for local governments.

Middle mile networks connect to the fiber backbone that spreads out across the United States. They provide a critical access point for last mile providers who ultimately serve homes and businesses. As the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society highlights in its report, If We Build It, Will They Come? Lessons from Open-Access, Middle-Mile Networks, open access middle mile networks offer providers nondiscriminatory network connections that do not require them to negotiate with competitors. They are also a crucial access point, and reduce cost barriers for new entrants.

Other states have successfully employed open access models. 

By investing in a statewide open access network, Kentucky became the first state to ensure fiber capability in all of its counties, though the state continues working to connect every resident with service. Washington’s Public Utilities Districts developed an open access network that uses a non-profit model to return revenues from selling service to developing the network. If the California state legislature adopts Governor Newsom’s plan, communities that are clamoring for broadband solutions will have new alternatives, particularly because the plan includes long-term financing for communities. 

Including local leaders in the conversation remains key. 

Coordinating with local communities in statewide network development and maintenance is critical to ensuring that networks remain operational. In April 2021, town leaders in Massachusetts sent a letter calling on the state to hire engineers to investigate outages from its state open access network that left their communities without Internet for 10 and 15 hours. Developing communication channels between the state and local governments ensures that residents who ultimately use the network have a voice in state policies that directly impact whether they have reliable, high-quality Internet access. 

Statewide networks designed with municipal-state coordination in mind at the outset can synergize efforts to improve resiliency and redundancy. Additionally, it invites opportunities for inter-city collaborations while fostering a more inclusive approach to bridging the digital divide. 

Explore NCC’s work to expand broadband access in California: