California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Senate and Assembly leaders have reached an agreement that backs a proposed $5.25 billion plan to expand the state’s broadband fiber infrastructure and increase internet connectivity for all Californians.

“This broadband package is historic. It transcends politics, and it will be a legacy project that will benefit generations of rural and urban residents alike,” said Gov. Newsom, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, in a joint statement.

Legislation encompassing the agreement will prioritize unserved and underserved areas, facilities, households, and businesses “that remain disconnected in the digital era,” the state officials said.

According to the announcement, the legislation includes:

  • More accountability and legislative oversight;
  • Creation of a “broadband czar” and nine-member council within the California Department of Technology;
  • Hiring of a third party to build and maintain “middle-mile” network facilities – high-capacity fiber lines that carry large amounts of data at higher speeds over longer distances between local networks;
  • Investments totaling $3.25 billion to target middle-mile facilities and build the broadband lines; and
  • Providing $2 billion for “last-mile” infrastructure lines that will connect consumers’ homes and businesses with local networks. Of that total, $1 billion will target rural communities, and another $1 billion will target urban communities.

Language of the bill is unclear about the ultimate sources of funding for the measure, whether derived from state or Federal sources.

“Our work on this critical issue is not done,” the three officials said. “We are fully committed to passing comprehensive measures by the end of this year’s legislative session to ensure the surcharge funding via the California Advanced Services Fund is extended.”

“These surcharge funds are embedded in pending legislation and are critical to the long-term success of local connectivity projects and to ensure every Californian has access to high-quality broadband internet like they rightfully deserve,” they said.

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John Thomas Flynn
John Thomas Flynn
John Thomas Flynn serves as a senior advisor for government programs at MeriTalk. He was the first CIO for the both the State of California and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and was president of NASCIO.