Piecing it Together; Technical Funds for Local Broadband

Feb 25, 2022 | Press Releases |

Press Release

Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously approved a grant program to help local agencies develop local public broadband networks. Soon, local agencies and Tribal governments will be able to apply for grant funds to help pay for technical resources needed to bring broadband service into their communities.

“For years, we have seen a failure [of communications service providers] to deploy or maintain adequate broadband networks in rural, Tribal, and disadvantaged communities,” said CPUC Commissioner Darcie L. Houck. “Local networks will also bring much needed competition to internet service markets and increase customer choice.”

The Utility Reform Network (TURN) supported the CPUC with the development of the grant program because TURN understands that technical resources are needed to stand up these broadband networks. The Commission agreed with TURN’s recommendation that the CPUC take measures to ensure the equitable distribution of the grant funds for the communities that face digital discrimination. The CPUC said that it would monitor the grant program’s progress to bridge the digital divide and that the CPUC would modify the grant program as needed.

CPUC Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen stated his support “of the intent in the decision to review and monitor funds to make sure that there is equitable distribution in accordance with [the CPUC’s] Environmental and Social Justice Action Plan. If there are modifications that are needed, [the CPUC] can ascertain that through this monitoring effort.”

Moreover, Commissioner Rechtschaffen praised the grant program as “a model [the CPUC] should think about using more broadly.” He went on to say, “Too often [the CPUC] approve[s] programs, but doesn’t provide the beneficiaries, recipients, or communities with the support they need to access the programs and it is no surprise that they are disproportionately unable to access these funds.”

In her comments supporting the grant program, CPUC President Alice Busching Reynolds stated that “[public] networks [are] not guided by profits, but by providing the highest quality service to their communities.” The CPUC anticipates the deployment of local broadband networks will meaningfully close the California digital divide and increase customer choice for high-quality broadband services in all communities, including disadvantaged communities.

Today’s CPUC approval of the California Advanced Services Fund Local Agency Technical Assistance grant program makes way for the development of local broadband networks. These funds will allow California resident to reap benefits for years to come.

Contact: Mark Toney • Executive Director • TURN mtoney@turn.org • (510) 590 2862

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