On Tuesday, Assembly Bill 1665, authored by Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), was heard in the Senate Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee. RCRC Second Vice Chair Randy Hanvelt (Tuolumne) provided testimony outlining RCRC’s concerns regarding the negative impacts of AB 1665 on the deployment of broadband service in rural communities.
Though amendments to the bill were committed to during the hearing, it appears that RCRC’s concerns remain unaddressed. The bill passed out of committee with eight “Aye” votes, and three members abstaining (Senators McGuire (D-Healdsburg), Cannella (R-Ceres), and Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga)).
While RCRC initially had a “Support if Amended” position on AB 1665, amendments taken in July forced RCRC and the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) to adopt an “Oppose Unless Amended” position. RCRC and CSAC are requesting that the bill be amended to restore the definitions of “unserved” and “underserved,” eliminate annual “right of first refusal,” and require transparency standards for deployment projects subsidized by ratepayers and Public-Benefit MOU commitments. In addition, RCRC and CSAC request that an alternative definition of “disadvantaged community” be included to ensure deserving communities are not inadvertently excluded from eligibility.
RCRC is very supportive of the original intent of AB 1665 and continuing the California Advanced Services Fund program. RCRC and CSAC have been in discussions with Legislators and legislative staff to share the negative impacts of the recent amendments, and to find a path forward that is positive for rural communities. RCRC’s joint “Oppose Unless Amended” letter can be accessed here.