California moves one step closer to closing the digital divide, a top priority for Cal Cities in 2021
Securing resources for local infrastructure projects, including broadband, was a top priority for the League of California Cities in 2021. Cal Cities delivered by working in tandem with lawmakers and coalition partners.
In a significant win for cities, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry) and SB 4 (Gonzalez) last Friday, two Cal Cities-supported measures that prioritize the broadband needs of California's unserved and underserved communities while providing local governments the flexibility and funding to expand deployment. The two bills complete an earlier $6 billion legislative package that enables and encourages local governments to take an active role in last-mile deployment and, in doing so, drive competition and increase access.
Protecting and modernizing critical infrastructure was a key Cal Cities legislative priority in 2021. Cal Cities has been laying the groundwork for AB 14 and SB 4 since the end of last year’s legislative session when efforts to reach a broadband deployment deal failed in the final hours of the session. In addition to playing a key role in the development of these bills, Cal Cities was also the only local government organization to come out in strong support of these two bills from the beginning.
Additionally, the Governor signed Cal Cities-supported SB 28 (Caballero), which modifies data reporting for Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 franchises, expands customer service oversight, and closes existing holes in internet service gaps. Over 96% of Californians with broadband receive their internet service from a DIVCA franchisee and this measure helps ensure local governments can build out their networks effectively and in a cost-effective manner.
The passage of these measures was accompanied by a welcomed veto of SB 556 (Dodd), which would have forced local governments to make space on public infrastructure available to telecommunications providers. Gov. Newsom’s veto message largely mirrored Cal Cities’ arguments, with the Governor noting that provisions of the bill conflict with existing FCC requirements and the crucial role cities play in broadband deployment.
The action on these bills sends a clear message that the Governor and the Legislature are listening to city leaders, recognize the importance of protecting local control, and understand the crucial role local governments play in broadband coverage. Thanks to a robust grassroots effort and countless city letters, Cal Cities showed that local governments cannot be shut out of the process to deploy broadband in communities that need affordable and reliable internet the most.