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Planning for California’s $6 Billion Broadband Investment is Underway. What Does Your Community Need?

On July 20, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 156 into law, setting the stage for a $6 billion investment in California’s broadband infrastructure. The legislation includes $3.25 billion for a statewide open-access middle-mile network and $2 billion for counties for last-mile service initiatives. Additionally, the legislation establishes a $750 million broadband loan loss reserve fund to finance local government and nonprofit deployment projects.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is currently developing a plan for the state’s $3.25 billion middle-mile network, GoldenStateNet. Municipalities, including the City and County of San Francisco and the City and County of Los Angeles, several local government associations, and community organizations weighed in on middle-mile network objectives. Many emphasized the need to partner with local leaders throughout the planning and implementation phases. Echoing feedback from local officials, NCC also filed comments and reply comments

The CPUC is also accepting comments on additional considerations for the state’s middle-mile network, including affordability, digital redlining, route redundancy, and competition. Comments are due on October 1, 2021, and replies are due on October 15, 2021. Additionally, the CPUC announced a staff proposal for the State’s grant process for federal funding. Comments on the federal funding program are due October 29, 2021 and reply comments are due November 15. 

In addition to the CPUC coordinating middle-mile network plans, Senate Bill 156 established a broadband advisory committee to monitor development and construction. The committee meets monthly on the third Wednesday of each month from 1:00-2:30 PM PST. CENIC California Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative, LLC will serve as the network’s third-party administrator, responsible for developing the network and coordinating with public and private stakeholders throughout the process. 

Rural and urban counties can apply for last-mile infrastructure funding through the CPUC until June 30, 2023. It will allocate $1 million for each urban and rural county, with remaining funding allocated based on the county’s proportionate share of households without access to service offering at least 100 Mbps download speeds. NCC will update California member municipalities when the application process opens. 

Local governments in California interested in filing CPUC comments or learning more about the legislation can reach out to Corian Zacher, NCC’s Policy Counsel for State & Local Initiatives, at corian@nextcenturycities.org. 

NCC’s Footprint in California’s Broadband Landscape

  • August 2020: Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-73-20, which set statewide digital equity as a goal and gave a series of directions to state agencies. In September 2020, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) opened a rulemaking proceeding (R.20-09-001) to carry out Governor Newsom’s Executive Order. 
  • October 2020: NCC submitted a letter urging Governor Newsom to reopen the state legislative session to pass a Broadband For All Bill. NCC responded to the CPUC’s request for comment on its rulemaking. 
  • November 2020: NCC became a party to the CPUC’s rulemaking, participating in a hearing and discussing the significance of longer comment periods to enable local government participation in the process. 
  • December 2020: On the first day of the state’s new legislative session, State Senator Lena Gonzalez introduced Senate Bill 4. NCC sent a letter to Senator Gonzalez supporting the introduction of SB 4 and highlighting the importance of municipal bonds to local broadband expansion initiatives.
  • February 2021: NCC submitted its opening brief with the CPUC which highlighted local comments to the California Broadband Council and discussed ways that those insights can inform the CPUC’s actions to spur deployment through investor-owned utilities.  
  • May 2021: NCC staff met with Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves and members of her staff to discuss state promotion strategies for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.
  • June 2021: Rebecca Kauma joined NCC for a fireside chat discussing the City of Long Beach’s digital inclusion initiative. 
  • July 2021: NCC elevated the importance of local digital equity and inclusion efforts during the CPUC’s request for comment on digital redlining in California. Additionally, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas joined NCC’s conference during a panel discussing COVID response efforts. 
  • August 2021: NCC joined public interest allies in a letter supporting SB 28, encouraging the California legislature to give municipalities a meaningful role in addressing digital redlining. 

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