On November 16, 2021, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry hosted a virtual town hall to discuss broadband access, infrastructure and deployment. Alongside other state and local officials, the assemblymember discussed new state legislation, funding and broadband projects underway.
You can watch the entire video here.
Below are questions that were submitted for the town hall discussion and other frequently asked questions (FAQ) regarding broadband.
What does AB 14 (Internet for All Act of 2021-Aguiar-Curry) do?
AB 14 prioritizes the deployment of broadband infrastructure in California’s most vulnerable and unserved rural and urban communities by extending the ongoing collection of funds deposited into the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to provide communities with grants necessary to bridge the digital divide. AB 14 is contingently enacted with SB 4 Broadband for All Act (Gonzalez) which raises the cap of collections from $66M to $150M for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Where does the funding for the “Internet for All Act of 2021” come from?
AB 14 – the “Internet for All Act of 2021” – continues a surcharge of 23 cents that individuals already pay on their cell phone bills each month. Put simply, if you have a cellphone or landline phone, you already pay a 23 cent surcharge fee. AB 14 extends this surcharge for another 10 years from 2026 to 2032. At the end of one year, you would have spent less than what it costs to buy one cup of coffee and less than what is currently paid by landline customers.
In terms of spending these funds, there is a middle mile and a last mile component. AB 14 and SB 4 also have commitments to “hooking up” anchor institutions like health and educational facilities, public safety and public buildings. These commitments and future maintenance will likely result in the need for future efforts to obtain funds.
What is the Open Access Middle Mile (OAMM)?
The middle mile is the physical mid-section of the infrastructure required to enable internet connectivity for homes, businesses and community institutions. An open access network gives public and private providers or entities wholesale access to broadband infrastructure with fair, reasonable and equal terms.
What is the last mile?
The last mile is the final leg of a network that provides service to the home, business or community institution.
What other funding is available for broadband infrastructure and deployment?
The generational investment in broadband under the SB 156 budget bill allocates $6 billion towards broadband infrastructure programs broadly. $3.25 billion is budgeted to build the middle mile network. For the last mile, $2 billion is allocated to create a new CASF subaccount, “the Federal Funding account” which is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act. This funding provides $1 billion for rural projects and $1 billion is for urban projects.
$750 million is allocated for a Loan Loss Reserve Fund that will assist local governments and non-profits to finance broadband service projects across the state.
How will the “Internet for All Act of 2021” provide affordable broadband to low income families?
Another important component of AB 14 was to expand the definition of a local agency to include local educational agencies, tribal governments and electrical cooperatives. We know that competition brings down costs for all, so by expanding the list of who can enter into a partnership with a private provider, we create more opportunities for broadband deployment which ultimately lowers the cost for all.
AB 14 provided new authority for public agencies, private providers and partnerships that can include both to participate and offer service. In addition to low-income families, we have also made tribes eligible for grants under our legislation.
Will this bill expand the number of internet providers in a specific area? For example, Arbuckle in Colusa County is mainly dominated by one provider and lacks provider options.
Arbuckle and Williams can start their own systems, work with providers to bring competition and form a partnership together with other localities or a public-private partnership.
How will the “Internet for All Act of 2021” provide broadband to rural areas?
Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) has already signed up 19 counties and is looking for more to join a partnership for rural California. Please make sure your county supervisors know you want them to be a part of connecting all of rural California!
How is digital literacy going to be tackled after the broadband infrastructure is in place?
Education is a huge component we will have to provide on an ongoing basis.
When will funds begin to be used to start building broadband infrastructure? Is there a deadline?
There is no deadline, but we hope to have the middle mile funding out the door over the next three years.
What does the timeline look like now that the bill has been signed into law?
There is a Middle Mile Advisory Council established under the budget in SB 156 that includes executive and legislative branch representatives, tech experts, industry and several other stakeholders including health and education. We hope this level of engagement will deliver quick projects to all of California.
Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Senator Mike McGuire’s districts overlap and they have been working together as a team to secure desperately needed funding to connect communities throughout their respective regions. Recently, they were proud to announce that the first round of several high-speed internet projects will receive funding in Northern California. Several hundred miles of high-speed internet fiber will be deployed in Colusa, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Plumas, Siskiyou and Tehama counties.
There will be more broadband projects like these popping up around the State, and more information will be available after the first of the year. So please feel free to contact our offices for more information about these projects.
Will the “Internet for All Act” expand access to carriers across districts?
It depends upon the creativity of officials in different regions of the state. But the Assembly has a Member work group to assure regional equity and I’ll be watching and participating to make sure my constituents aren’t left behind!
Reliable high-speed internet is critical to economic development in Lake County. How will this bill address Lake County's Internet infrastructure "deficit"?
Lake County is one of the few in California that already has a county plan and they have already begun updating it under Supervisor Bruno Sabatier and his colleague’s leadership.
What is the current definition of “Unserved Area” with regards to internet connection speeds?
AB 14 expands the definition of “unserved area” eligible for CASF grants from six megabits per second (mbps) download and one mbps upstream to at least 25mbps download and 3mbps upstream, and SB 156 defines an “unserved area” that does not offer at least one tier of service at 25mbps download and three mbps upstream.
AB 14 increases speed standards by increasing the minimum speed for CASF deployed infrastructure from 10mbps download and one mbps upstream to 100mbps download and 20mbps upstream, or a greater standard adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or CPUC.
AB 14 prioritizes grant funding for areas that lack service above 10mbps download and one mbps upstream and provides for 100mbps download and 20mbps upstream speeds to anchor institutions. Anchor institutions include schools, libraries, medical and health care providers, public safety entities, community colleges and other institutions of higher education.
The pandemic affected an entire household’s ability to connect (parents, students and grandparents). Where Chromebooks and hotspots may have been available, speeds were insufficient and multi-family homes simply could not connect. The goal is to have realistic and workable upload and download speeds that support all members in the household.
MIDDLE MILE ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETINGS
Please tune in to the next Middle Mile Advisory Committee meeting. Information on future meetings is available here.
These public meetings are held once a month and provide updates from Caltrans, the Department of Technology, the California Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Finance and others working to identify and deploy broadband around the State.
Panelist Provided Links from November 2021 Broadband Town Hall
- Order Instituting Rulemaking Regarding Revisions to the California Advanced Services Fund: Proceeding Details (ca.gov)
- Order Instituting Rulemaking Regarding Broadband Infrastructure Deployment and to Support Service Providers in the State of California: Proceeding Details (ca.gov)
- Martha Guzman Aceves- California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Commissioner Presentation Slides: CPUC Power Point Slides
- Chico State/Lake County Statewide Needs Map
- Getting Connected- A Broadband Resource Guide
- Check your Internet Speed at CalSPEED which is a mobile app released by the CPUCfor Californians to view broadband services in their area. Download the app on Google Play and the Apple App Store.
AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry) Internet for All Act of 2021: Prioritizes the deployment of broadband infrastructure in California’s most vulnerable and unserved rural and urban communities by extending the ongoing collection of funds deposited into the CASF to provide communities with grants to bridge the digital divide. This law defines an unserved household eligible for CASF funds as one for which there is no broadband provider offering service at a speed of at least six megabits per second (mbps) downstream and one mbps upstream. This legislation is a critical step towards expediting the deployment of broadband infrastructure throughout the state. AB 14 provides a vital pathway to connect California’s workforce to gainful employment, harness the life-saving technology of telemedicine and sustain economic transactions in times of emergencies. Passed into law and chaptered on October 8, 2021.
AB 41 (Wood) Broadband Infrastructure Deployment: Updates California’s “dig once” policy for Caltrans to help expedite the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities to include a provision for more transparency on the part of providers about planned deployment. Passed into law and chaptered on October 8, 2021.
SB 4 (Gonzalez) The Broadband for All Act: Secures continuous funding and implements a number of critically needed reforms to the CASF program administered by the CPUC. Additionally, SB 4 recognizes that a long-term commitment is needed to develop future-proof infrastructure and extend the 2022 subset for 10 more years on the CASF surcharge. SB 4 ensures oversight and transparency by requiring a biennial audit of the program and caps the surcharge collection at $150 million per year. Passed into law and chaptered on October 8, 2021.
SB 28 (Caballero) Rural Broadband and DIVCA Reform Act of 2021: Helps close the digital divide that separates California into broadband have and have-nots. First, this bill requires the Department of General Services, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Education and the Department of Technology to identify all state real properties, rights of ways and other resources suitable for a public/private partnership for broadband. This law also reforms the Digital Infrastructure Video Competition Act of 2006 (DIVCA) in order to ensure that licenses are meeting their obligations under DIVCA. Passed into law and chaptered on October 8, 2021.