Home » AT&T »Editorial & Site News »Frontier »Public Policy & Gov't »Rural Broadband » Currently Reading:

California Governor Vetoes Rural Broadband Development Bills; AT&T and Frontier Benefit the Most

Phillip Dampier October 15, 2019 AT&T, Editorial & Site News, Frontier, Public Policy & Gov't, Rural Broadband No Comments

Gov. Newsom

California’s efforts to address the state’s ongoing rural broadband problems made little headway in 2019, as Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the past week vetoed (or allowed to expire) the only two broadband measures surviving the treacherous journey through the California legislature.

Assembly Bill 1212 would have made rural broadband a priority for Caltrans — California’s Department of Transportation and the Department of Water Resources, including broadband on recommended lists of projects for funding consideration by two of the state’s largest pension investment funds: the California Public Employees Retirement System and the California State Teachers Retirement System. Current state law only allows pension boards to invest in in-state infrastructure projects that meet certain fiduciary responsibilities. By expanding investment projects to include telecommunications, funding from two major pension funds might have been unlocked and made available to future rural internet projects.

Assembly Bill 417, also known as the Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Act, included several measures targeting rural farming. Two passages in the bill would have included broadband expansion as a new priority for the California Department of Food and Agriculture (DFA):

Due to the central role of agriculture in rural California, it is necessary to achieve a detailed understanding of the economic value that agriculture brings to rural communities and to identify opportunities to improve agricultural productivity, including by increasing broadband access, advancing agricultural innovation, technology, and education, and supporting a well-trained, productive rural workforce, to benefit rural communities.

[…] Making recommendations to the secretary on actions to further the development of rural agricultural economies, including, but not limited to, increasing broadband access, providing technical, resource, and regulatory compliance assistance, advancing agricultural innovation and technology, establishing programs for education and workforce development, and evaluating recreation and tourism opportunities.

Several other proposed measures, including AB 1409 which would have created a fund for providing wireless hotspots for students and Wi-Fi service on school buses was killed last spring behind closed doors in the California Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. The annual attempt by AT&T and other telecom companies to write their own laws to deregulate themselves (this time AB 1366), was suddenly pulled from committee consideration by its author back in September.

That the two mild measures made it through the legislature to the governor’s desk was not surprising considering the sheer number of minor bills that pile up on Newsom’s desk. But for both to suffer quiet deaths through veto or expiration despite almost no public opposition speaks to the power of Sacramento insider politics.

Newsom’s explanation for killing AB 1212 was hardly compelling, as he explained he felt the measure was “unnecessary” because “existing law already encourages public retirement systems to invest in state infrastructure.” But that explanation ignores decades of state government bureaucracy, where agencies zealously guard their funding and protect their own existing project priorities to the hilt. AB 417 would have expanded the mission of the DFA, something the governor argued should only be done in the state budget and only within the specific context of the broader mission of the department, whatever that means. The head of the DFA was likely thrilled anyway.

Telecom consultant Steve Blum notes Caltrans and other state agencies were unlikely to ever consider rural broadband a funding priority, unless it was intended for their own use. Blum also believes the most likely suspects responsible for convincing the governor to kill both bills were the heads of the departments themselves.

“The simplest explanation for Newsom’s vetoes is that Caltrans, DWR and/or DFA staff asked him to do it, because those are jobs they don’t want to do,” Blum wrote on his blog. “That sort of opposition was why a Caltrans dig once policy bill was watered down in 2016.”

Blum believes the state’s largest phone companies will benefit the most from the outcome of the 2019 legislative session.

“Newsom’s vetoes bolster AT&T’s and Frontier’s rural monopoly business model, which redlines poorer and less densely populated communities and leaves them with low speed DSL service, if they’re lucky enough to get anything at all,” he wrote.

The loss of AB 1212 and 417 won’t change much for Californians waiting for rural broadband. Neither measure would have led to any immediate improvement in internet access in the less populated areas of the state. But the measures would have set a foundation to bring two more state agencies into the fight to tackle rural broadband issues.

Ultimately, just as in other states, a large amount of money will have to be found to wire those still without internet access. Governments and regulators can either make rural internet expansion a contingency of future merger deals or other business-government transactions or find suitable funding to subsidize the cost of internet expansion by for-profit companies, rural co-ops, or local governments willing to tackle the problem on the local level.

Leave a Reply

avatar

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Jane: I agree. My billing cycle is from October 25 thru November 24 and I canceled on the 12 of October they say I owe for the full month how’s that possibl...
  • Sarah: Just got my $3 increase to $27.99 this month, Nov. 2019. $24.99 started Nov. 2018. Kentucky....
  • aida gonzalez: they did a pole in front my house they did hole and place it but not cement was place on the side walk now what who do I call they need to come back a...
  • Joe Ward: Crooked and Deceptive to the Max! - Spectrum promotes False Advertising by saying "No Contract", - then when existing customer applies for new promo...
  • Alpha: That’s because there are no competitions for the cable internet company. Spectrum has consolidated with the charter and raising the prices annually....
  • Reva Mays: I encourage everyone to file complaints about Spectrum's practice with the Federal Bureau of Consumer Protection at https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/bure...
  • Joe: The FTC Commissioner's name is Rohit, not Deepak. Deepak Chopra is the scammy nutritional supplement guy! I did a double-take when I read the name and...
  • Jason: After 15 years with Verizon and to Frontier for the merger, i left, because the incompetence is running ramped in the company. Employees are chastised...
  • Greg: I'm in Penfield myself and am excited about this as a big FU to Specturm. Can you plug this service into your existing Wi-Fi setup? I have mesh Wi-Fi ...
  • Nathaniel Marton: Yea we can have a socialist utopia like they have in LA and San Francisco right now. Needles and human dung all over the streets and drugs everywhere!...
  • Dawn: I bet as soon as you canceled you could not log into your spectrum acct, even though you were still paying? This happened to me. Paying, but acct offi...
  • Dawn: It seems their billing start date is day before you cancel....

Your Account: