Broadband Bill Needs Support

by AVA News Service, February 19, 2016

Dear Broadband Supporters;

As everyone knows, legislation passed in Sacramento affects broadband in our rural counties. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has a program called the "California Advanced Services Fund” (or CASF) grant program to help fund infrastructure build out in high cost areas such as rural counties. Although not without it’s problems, this state program is an important part of the solution to the Digital Divide. Smaller Internet Service Providers such as WISPs can apply to the CASF for funding through a recent change in eligibility rules. In the past, providers have used this fund to build out infrastructure in Comptche, Laytonville, Covelo, and Boonville. The program is being utilized around the state, and currently there are 20 more applications submitted than funding available. The program is overall successful, and should be continued.

Unfortunately, the program is in danger of elimination due to lack of re-authorization. There is currently a bill, called the “Internet for Now” or AB 1758, which would extend the program until 2023 with funding from user fees (not new taxes). I have attached information about this bill. Unfortunately, it is meeting strong opposition from the bigger carriers (who don’t use the program) saying that the CASF program is not necessary, and that our rural counties are being served adequately. Broadband advocates strongly disagree, and ask that if you also think our rural areas are not adequately served, to send a letter to the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee where this bill is currently stalled. A super-majority of this committee must vote in favor, and this is the biggest hurdle currently in front of AB 1758.

Here are a few statistics to note and/or use in your email or phone call:

  • In the 8 rural northern Ca counties, there are 46,800 unserved and underserved households (by the CPUC’s own data) or 11% of the households
  • 
In Mendocino, the percentage of unserved and underserved households is 34%
  • For comparison, the number of unserved/underserved households in the state as a whole is 5%

If you want to help, contact me (Trish@MendocinoBroadband.org) and I'll send you the letter template for you to edit as much as you wish, and send to the members of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce committee. I have an excel spreadsheet to send, with the email addresses (and phone numbers if you prefer to call) of all the committee members who should be contacted. You can just copy all the email addresses in one shot, paste into your email, and send. These letters should be sent asap, but please don’t wait longer than one week as the bill is in dire straights. Please send me a copy of your letter by including me as a blind cc, or emailing your letter separately to me.

Thanks so much for taking action on this important issue. If you want to do more, you can contact Assemblymember Jim Wood and Senator Mike McGuire and ask them to please co-sponsor this bill. Currently, neither of these elected officials are co-sponsors. I have letter templates and contact info if you want to send an email for this.

Thanks!

Trish

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