Is California really serious about broadband for all?

During the pandemic, all of us saw kids sitting outside Taco Bell waiting without spending a dime Wi-Fi access to do their homework because their families didn't have broadband. The COVID lockdown shone a harsh light on the persistent inequalities in broadband access across California.

Recent state data collected by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) found that not less than 362,000 households shouldn’t have a web service provider. bridging the digital divideIn 2021, the Legislature and the Newsom administration approved $6 billion for a “Broadband for All” funding package to encourage the event of recent broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities. These funds were largely provided by the federal government and were for use before December 2026. A good portion of those funds were placed under the control of the CPUC, which had already been administering a broadband infrastructure grant program for several years with some success.

Fast forward to 2024. What does California have to point out for this investment? Not much. There are still two years to go until the deadline and the CPUC has not yet awarded a single penny to any project. Not a single latest budget has been related to this funding.

Why is that? There are several reasons for this. For one thing, the CPUC and the California Department of Technology, the state departments liable for implementing broadband infrastructure, don’t measure the success of the funding by the variety of underserved or unserved households connected. Instead, they deal with the miles of underground wires. And not only that: These two state departments are at best talking past one another and at worst uncoordinated of their coordination.

The CPUC is the state agency entrusted with an excessive amount of responsibility for just six commissioners. CPUC commissioners are answerable for issues corresponding to rising electricity prices, energy security and climate change, while the less pressing but equally vital task of administering broadband infrastructure grants seems to have fallen by the wayside.

As Chair of the Committee on Communications and Transportation, I consider we’re actively failing to attach our unserved and underserved communities. It is apparent that the CPUC has not made progress and is not going to make progress a priority. The agency has grow to be so reckless that it even refused to make a commissioner available for a legislative oversight hearing.

If California is actually occupied with connecting our communities and shutting the digital divide once and for all, we want to noticeably address the CPUC's structural flaws and seriously consider removing broadband from its oversight. The CPUC just isn’t the proper agency to do that. The CPUC was originally designed to control monopolies, not administer subsidies in a competitive broadband market.

As a state that at all times says, “As California goes, so goes the nation,” we must always not fall behind other states. We mustn’t normalize children sitting outside fast food restaurants to do their homework. We can do more to make sure the long run of a California for all.

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