Sen. Dodd’s Broadband Improvement Bill Advances
SACRAMENTO – Legislation from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, to improve access to high-speed broadband service and help close the digital divide as Californians rely more on the internet for remote work and distance learning cleared a key committee hurdle today.
“For too long, telecommunication projects have been delayed by confusing regulations, entrenched in excessive bureaucracy,” Sen. Dodd said. “It’s had a severe impact on bringing high-speed internet to many communities across California, especially low-income communities. With this legislation, we take an immediate step toward improving internet access, ensuring equity and closing the digital divide.”
Sen. Dodd’s legislation comes as employers and schools across the state have shifted to virtual participation in response to the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting disparities of access faced by low-income families and people of color. Nearly 42% of California families said unreliable internet access was a challenge for them during distance learning according to a recent poll by EdSource and FM3 Research.
Senate Bill 556 would make high-speed internet more broadly available for schools and businesses by removing local discretion to put roadblocks before small cell deployment – something that is critical for reliable high-speed internet. It builds on existing law setting timelines and reasonable fees for processing and approving broadband projects. Instead of having to sue to get project approval, the bill will result in quicker decisions and ultimately more robust coverage.
SB 556 was approved with overwhelming support today in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications committee.
“Time is of the essence to address barriers to deployment and expansion of wireless broadband network infrastructure given the immediate need for broadband internet access for all Californians amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Steve Herrington, superintendent of Sonoma County schools. “This statewide guidance will be critical to efforts in bridging the digital divide by connecting students, families, and communities with reliable internet connectivity that will remain a necessity well after the COVID-19 pandemic has abated.”
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. You can learn more about the district and Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.