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Permitting Measure Signed

Vetoed Calif. Wireless Bill to Return Next Session, Says Sponsor

California Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R) will try again next session on a vetoed bill that would have expanded eligibility for federal broadband grants administered by the California Public Utilities Commission, a Patterson spokesperson told us Wednesday. Wireless industry groups lamented Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Sunday veto of AB-1065, though they applauded the Democrat for signing AB-965, a bill meant to streamline the broadband permitting process.

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When state lawmakers return in January, Patterson plans to reintroduce the bill that would have explicitly authorized wireless broadband providers to apply for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) federal funding account (FFA) grants, his spokesperson said. The state assemblymember sees wireless as a “reliable substitute … when it’s impossible to use fiber,” he said in an interview last month (see 2309150063).

The goal of California's last-mile grant program “is to expeditiously connect unserved and underserved communities to future-proof broadband service,” Newsom wrote in a veto letter Sunday. “This bill would delay this effort by requiring the CPUC to halt the FFA program and modify the rules governing this program through a lengthy process. This could jeopardize the CPUC's ability to meet federal funding encumbrance deadlines and it could significantly disrupt the review of project grant applications that were recently submitted.”

Meanwhile, AB-965 will “accelerate broadband deployment and help close our state’s digital divide,” said sponsor Assemblymember Juan Carrillo (D) in a statement. The bill allows simultaneous processing of multiple broadband permit applications for similar project sites under a single permit and requires local governments to decide applications within a reasonable time. As a former city planner, Carrillo knows “first-hand that this measure will create a more efficient process for high-volume broadband permits, ease the workload of local government staff while ensuring Californians benefit from high speed internet projects,” he said.

The Wireless Infrastructure Association “was disappointed to see the veto of AB-1065,” said WIA Vice President-Government Affairs Karmen Rajamani Wednesday. “Allowing wireless broadband solutions to compete for state broadband funds will only benefit consumers and accelerate the expansion of connectivity. WIA will continue to advocate alongside our allies for the right of wireless broadband to compete for state funding.” But WIA applauded Newsom for signing AB-965. It shows the state proactively reducing regulatory barriers to deployment, she said. Similarly, CTIA was disappointed Newsom vetoed AB-1065 but glad he signed AB-965, a spokesperson said.

The veto also disappointed the Wireless ISP Association, said State Advocacy Manager Steve Schwerbel. “With the CPUC acknowledging that the state does not have enough funding to run fiber to every unserved and underserved location in the state, every tool needs to be available to achieve universal connectivity.” A Crown Castle spokesperson cheered AB-965 becoming law. ”We look forward to continuing to work with local government agencies to efficiently expand high-speed internet access.”

Newsom also vetoed a video franchise bill (AB-41) that sponsor Assemblymember Chris Holden (D) said would tighten digital equity requirements in the state’s cable law. “This bill does not go far enough,” Newsom wrote Sunday. “The changes this bill makes will not meaningfully increase digital equity in California.” Holden didn’t comment now. The Utility Reform Network (TURN) had raised concerns with the bill, while USTelecom and the California Broadband and Video Association ended up neutral on the bill.

However, California will write a digital bill of rights under the Newsom-signed AB-414. The governor also approved SB-387 to let the state lease public land at submarket rates for broadband deployment and AB-286 to update mapping rules including by allowing users to submit speed tests.

TURN praised Newsom's vetoes. Quashing AB-1065 “ensures that the generational investment in broadband supports state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure to support essential services going forward,” emailed Telecom Policy Director Regina Costa. Holden’s video bill “did little to advance digital equity and instead would have watered down the existing legislation and eliminated important protections for consumers,” Costa said. AB-286 approval means “a much more realistic picture of the speeds that customers actually receive,” compared with “the often unsubstantiated claims of broadband providers,” she said.

Newsom signed a privacy bill allowing consumers to delete data collected on them by brokers (SB-362). “This is a first of a kind law that returns control over consumer's personal information, setting a national standard for privacy rights,” posted Sen. Josh Becker (D) Tuesday on X, formerly Twitter. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the bill is modeled on his proposed Mind Your Own Business Act. “Americans shouldn't have to fill out hundreds of different forms to stop data brokers selling their personal information,” said Wyden. “I hope that other states and Congress will follow.”

Newsom signed other privacy bills, including AB-947 to add immigration and citizenship status to the California Consumer Protection Act’s definition of sensitive personal information. And the governor approved AB-1194, which says businesses aren’t required to comply with government requests for emergency access to personal information on abortion and contraception.

California will have a right-to-repair law covering cellphones and other electronics, after Newsom signed SB-244. Device makers have usually opposed such bills, but Apple and HP joined repair advocates like iFixit in supporting California’s measure. “California is a very big state, and by itself this law would have outside influence,” blogged Wednesday. “But they are one of several laws already on the books with more to follow.”