Bill Text: CA AB1176 | 2021-2022 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Communications: universal broadband service: California Connect Fund.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 3-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2021-04-14 - In committee: Set, first hearing. Hearing canceled at the request of author. [AB1176 Detail]

Download: California-2021-AB1176-Introduced.html


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 1176


Introduced by Assembly Members Eduardo Garcia and Santiago
(Coauthor: Assembly Member Medina)

February 18, 2021


An act to amend Section 270 of, to amend and renumber Section 282 of, and to add and repeal Section 282 of, the Public Utilities Code, relating to communications.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1176, as introduced, Eduardo Garcia. Communications: universal broadband service: California Connect Fund.
The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 establishes a program for the regulation of telecommunications to attain the goal of local competition, while implementing specific, predictable, and sufficient federal and state mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service, consistent with certain universal service principles. The universal service principles include the principle that consumers in all regions of the nation, including low-income consumers and those in rural, insular, and high-cost areas, should have access to telecommunications and information services, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services, that are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas and that are available at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates charged for similar services in urban areas.
Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory authority over public utilities, including telephone corporations. Existing law, the Moore Universal Telephone Service Act, established the Universal Lifeline Telephone Service (ULTS) program to ensure lifeline telephone service is available to the people of the state. In carrying out the ULTS program, existing law requires the commission to designate annually a class of lifeline service necessary to meet minimum residential communications needs, to set the rates and charges for that service, to develop eligibility criteria for that service, and to assess the degree of achievement of universal service. Existing law requires the commission to develop, implement, and administer the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) program to encourage deployment of high-quality advanced communications services to all Californians. Existing law provides that the goal of the CASF program is to, no later than December 31, 2022, approve funding for infrastructure projects that will provide broadband access to no less than 98% of California households, as provided. Existing law establishes, among other funds related to telecommunications, the Universal Lifeline Telephone Service Trust Administrative Committee Fund and the CASF in the State Treasury, and requires that moneys in the funds are held in trust and may be expended only to accomplish specified universal service programs, upon appropriation in the annual Budget Act or upon supplemental appropriation.
This bill would establish the California Connect Fund in the State Treasury, subject to the conditions and restrictions applicable to the existing universal service funds described above. The bill would, until January 1, 2031, require the commission to develop, implement, and administer the California Connect Program to ensure that high-speed broadband service is available to every household in the state at affordable rates. The bill would require the commission, on or before January 1, 2023, to adopt rules to implement the program, including rules that establish eligibility criteria for the program and the amount of, and requirements for, subsidies under the program. The bill would require the commission to perform outreach to increase program participation and to collect data on existing affordable internet service plans that may meet program criteria. The bill would require the commission to annually report to the Legislature on the status of the program, including its success and any recommendations for modifications to the program, as provided.
Under existing law, a violation of the Public Utilities Act or any order, decision, rule, direction, demand, or requirement of the commission is a crime.
Because a violation of a commission action implementing this bill’s requirements would be a crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 270 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

270.
 (a) The following funds are hereby created in the State Treasury:
(1) The California High-Cost Fund-A Administrative Committee Fund.
(2) The California High-Cost Fund-B Administrative Committee Fund.
(3) The Universal Lifeline Telephone Service Trust Administrative Committee Fund.
(4) The Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program Administrative Committee Fund.
(5) The California Teleconnect Fund Administrative Committee Fund.
(6) The California Advanced Services Fund.
(7) The California Connect Fund.
(b) Moneys in the funds are held in trust and may only be expended pursuant to this chapter and upon appropriation in the annual Budget Act or upon supplemental appropriation.
(c) The commission, in administering the universal service program funds listed in subdivision (a), and in administering state participation in federal universal service programs, is encouraged, consistent with the state’s universal service policies and goals, to maximize the amount of federal funding to California participants in the federal programs.
(d) Moneys in each fund shall not be appropriated, or in any other manner transferred or otherwise diverted, to any other fund or entity, except as provided in Sections 19325 and 19325.1 of the Education Code.

SEC. 2.

 Section 282 of the Public Utilities Code is amended and renumbered to read:

282.286.
 Any revenues that are deposited in funds created pursuant to this chapter shall not be used by the state for any purpose other than as specified in this chapter. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Controller may use the funds created pursuant to this chapter for loans to the General Fund as provided in Sections 16310 and 16381 of the Government Code.

SEC. 3.

 Section 282 is added to the Public Utilities Code, to read:

282.
 (a) The Legislature finds and declares both of the following:
(1) The deployment of high-quality advanced communications services to all Californians has been, and continues to be, an important goal of the state.
(2) The furnishing of high-speed broadband service is in the public interest and should be supported fairly and equitably by every broadband service provider, and the commission, in administering a universal service program, should implement the program in a way that is equitable, nondiscriminatory, and without competitive consequences for the communications industry in California.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that every Californian has access to high-speed broadband services at affordable rates in order to achieve universal service for all residents.
(c) The commission shall develop, implement, and administer the California Connect Program to ensure that high-speed broadband service is available to every household in the state at affordable rates. The commission shall, on or before January 1, 2023, adopt rules to implement the program. The rules shall include all of the following:
(1) Eligibility criteria that includes both of the following categories:
(A) Low-income qualification. Low-income qualification may be demonstrated by an annual total household income that is at or below a certain income level or by the enrollment of a member of the household in one or more public-assistance programs, as determined by the commission.
(B) Student qualification. Student qualification may be demonstrated by the enrollment of one or more members of the household in a qualifying school maintaining kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, or in a qualifying community college, as determined by the commission.
(2) The amount of subsidy or allowance each eligible household is entitled to receive. The commission shall base the amount on the number of members in each household and may consider the number of those members who are enrolled in a school specified in paragraph (1), as determined by the commission.
(3) Subsidies may be used to pay for all costs identified on the billing statement of an eligible subscriber, including monthly service costs, installation and set-up costs for service or devices, rental or leasing costs for modems, routers, or other equipment, and any other costs necessary to initiate or maintain the service.
(4) Subsidies may only be used for broadband service at speeds of at least 100 megabits per second (mbps) downstream.
(d) The commission shall conduct outreach efforts to increase program participation. The commission shall collect data on existing affordable internet service plans that may meet program criteria.
(e) Any moneys appropriated from the California Connect Fund to the commission may only be expended for the program administered by the commission pursuant to this section, including the costs incurred by the commission in developing, implementing, and administering the program and the fund.
(f) The commission shall report annually to the Legislature regarding the status of the California Connect Program including an update on the progress in achieving the goals of the program, broadband service adoption levels, the remaining unserved households in each region of the state, an accounting of the expenditures from the California Connect Fund, and recommendations for any modification of the program in order to maximize program participation and effectiveness.
(g) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2031, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2031, deletes or amends that date.

SEC. 4.

 No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.
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