Social and Economic Justice for Californians in the Digital Age
Today, high-speed Internet (broadband) access is essential for homework, employment applications, job training, health services, and civic activities. Yet 16% of Californians do not have high-speed Internet at home and 30% do not have home broadband and a computing device. Too many low-income, rural, and disabled Californians are disenfranchised from our Digital Economy because of cost and lack of access. (Source: 2016 Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, Field Research Corporation)
The California Legislature’s goal of 98% broadband deployment in 2017 has not been met for many rural communities. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reported that only 43% of rural households have access to reliable broadband service. (Source: California Advanced Services 2015 Annual Report)
The California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) was established in 2008 by the Legislature and CPUC to close the Digital Divide. CASF provides: grants and loans for deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas; grants to regional consortia to advance broadband deployment, access, and adoption; and grants to public housing for access and/or adoption activities. Over the last 9 years, the Legislature has authorized a total of $315M into CASF by collecting a few cents per month on phone bills.
Only the Legislature Can Authorize Collection of More Funds into the California Advanced Services Fund
The Legislature established the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) in 2008, and authorized $315 million to be collected over the past 7 years, from a small fee on phone bills, to support deployment of broadband into unserved and underserved areas to help close the Digital Divide. CASF has funded 57 projects and reached over 300,000 households. Nevertheless, CASF is out of money for infrastructure deployment with 14 pending projects. CASF has funded 54 projects to reach 304,555 HHs at an average CASF subsidy of $461 per HH and total average cost of $1,385 per HH. CASF is clearly cost-effective compared to the FCC Connect America Fund 2 average subsidy in California of $2,550 per HH. CASF is out of money for infrastructure deployment with 14 project applications pending and more in the pipeline. CASF is the only source of support for broadband unless the Legislature enacts a new fee or tax or does a General Fund budget allocation.
What AB 1665 Will Do
The Internet For All Now Act (AB 1665) was introduced in the California State Legislature on February 17, 2016 by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia with joint and co-authorship from Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Chris Holden, Kevin McCarty, David Chiu, Susan Eggman, Kevin Mullin, Anna Caballero, Mike Gipson, Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Jose Medina, Eloise Gómez Reyes, and Blanca Rubio. AB 1665 authorizes additional collection of funds into CASF. It would
- retain that the goal of the program is to approve funding for infrastructure projects that will provide broadband access to no less than 98% of California households, but would provide that this goal is to be achieved by December 31, 2023.
- establish a 5th account within the CASF, the Broadband Adoption Account, to ensure low-income Californians get online.
- repeal the current authorization to collect up to $315,000,000 for deposit in the CASF at a rate of up to $25,000,000 per year through the 2020 calendar year, and instead authorize the commission to collect an unspecified amount for deposit into the CASF beginning January 1, 2018, and continuing through the 2027 calendar year.
- require the commission to biennially report specified information relative to the CASF to the Legislature and would revise the information specified for inclusion.
- require the commission to identify priority unserved and underserved areas and delineate the priority areas in the biennial reports.
- require the commission to consult regional consortia, stakeholders, and consumers regarding priority areas and cost-effective strategies to achieve the broadband access goal through public workshops conducted at least annually no later than April 30 of each year.
The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) The commission shall develop, implement, and administer the California Advanced Services Fund program to encourage deployment of high-quality advanced communications services to all Californians that will promote economic growth, job creation, and the substantial social benefits of advanced information and communications technologies, consistent with this section.
(b) (1) The goal of the program is, no later than December 31, 2023,to approve funding for infrastructure projects that will provide broadband access to no less than 98 percent of California households.
(2) In approving infrastructure projects, the commission shall give priority to projects that provide last-mile broadband access to households that are unserved by an existing facilities-based broadband provider. The commission shall provide each applicant, and any party challenging an application, the opportunity to demonstrate actual levels of broadband service in the project area, which the commission shall consider in reviewing the application.
(c) The commission shall establish the following accounts within the fund:
(1) The Broadband Infrastructure Grant Account.
(2) The Rural and Urban Regional Broadband Consortia Grant Account.
(3) The Broadband Infrastructure Revolving Loan Account.
(4) The Broadband Public Housing Account.
(5) The Broadband Adoption Account.