Gifts / Illustration of fiber optic cables.

The California Legislature unanimously approved a plan to build a fiber network across the state, with access open yesterday. The legislation was backed by Democrats and Republicans in the 78-0 vote in the California Assembly and 39-0 in the State Senate.

Nationwide open access fiber lines will function as a “mid-mile” network carrying data from backbone networks to connection points in cities and rural areas. A mid-mile network does not extend to residential properties, but “last mile” ISPs can access it and focus on building the infrastructure that connects the middle mile to homes.

California’s decision to make the open-mile mid-mile network open means it will provide “non-discriminatory access for eligible entities on a technology-neutral and competitive basis, regardless of whether the entity is privately or publicly owned.” stated in the text of the invoice. If everything goes as planned, the network will make it easier to expand existing ISPs and launch new ISPs, filling in gaps where there is no modern access, and increasing competition and speed in other areas. End-of-life ISPs can use network technologies in addition to fiber to connect to homes due to the provision allowing technology-neutral access.

“We did it! Today, we voted for a historic broadband budget package” that will provide over $ 6 billion “in support of local, middle, and local government, with a focus on unserved service and undeserved [areas], ” wrote Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach).

$ 2 billion in funding for the last few miles complements open access fibers

The state is providing $ 3.25 billion to build the mid-mile network and, as Gonzalez noted, does not stop at the middle mile. While the package will not build a last-mile open access network, it provides $ 2 billion in funding for last-mile ISPs to serve more homes.

“Every single California lawmaker. Every Republican and Democrat in Sacramento has just voted for a fiber for the whole future,” Senior Legislative Advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Ernesto Falcon wrote on Twitter. Falcon previously wrote that major ISPs were lobbying for changes that seemed to focus on “blocking the state government from pushing middle-mile fibers deep into any community.”

Falcon has called on the state and federal governments to prioritize fiber networks over other technologies such as cables that have slower charging speeds and are not as evidence of the future. Congress and President Biden are negotiating a $ 65 billion broadband deal, but it is still unclear whether they will prioritize fiber or whether they will prioritize funding for public networks or private companies.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is confident he will sign the California bill because he agreed on the final details with lawmakers earlier this week.

“This broadband package is historic,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the deal. “It goes beyond politics, and it will be an inherited project that will benefit both generations of rural and urban residents. This legislation will provide vital and expanded access to California families by prioritizing areas, facilities, families.” and unused and undeserved businesses. detached in the digital age. ” Newsom’s budget plan released in May had proposed the use of federal aid funds and state surplus to build broadband and other infrastructure as part of “a one-time investment in the state’s future”.

Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), who was part of the team of lawmakers who negotiated with Newsom, said: “I’m very excited; I’ve been working on this for 10 years,” according to the Press Democrat. “With the passage of AB 156 today, California is committed to a generational investment in providing all Californians with the access they need to Internet-based services such as education and training, tele-health, and the digital economy.”

Unserved areas take first priority

As stated in the Newsom press release, the plan includes “hiring a third party to build and maintain the” mid-mile network “- high-capacity fiber lines that carry large amounts of data at higher speeds. large in longer distances between local networks “, with the state spending” $ 3.25 billion to target that middle mile and build broadband lines “. The medium mileage network would be available to “last mile providers, mooring institutions and tribal entities,” the bill said.

$ 2 billion for “last mile lines” that will connect consumer homes and businesses to local networks “includes $ 1 billion for rural communities and $ 1 billion for urban communities, according to the Newsom announcement. the latter will have until June 30, 2023, to apply. After that date, the remaining money “will be made available to [Public Utilities] “The commission will allocate for the construction of the broadband infrastructure of the last kilometers everywhere in the state,” the text of the invoice reads.

The construction of the medium-kilometer network is apparently expected to take several years, as the law states “the procurement authorization for the design construction … will remain in force for the purposes of the wide-open network with open access nationwide after January 1, 2024, until the completion of the broadband network. tribal lands.

The middle mile plan would initially target places where there is no residential access at 25Mbps download speed and 3Mbps load. The Public Utilities Commission is tasked with identifying locations “in communities where there is no known medium-mile infrastructure that is open, with sufficient capacity and affordable tariffs.” The Commission should also “identify the priority locations of the nationwide wideband open access network, including areas that can be constructed quickly, areas without known access to the backbone network, areas not controlled by “middle kilometers and regions without sufficient capacity to meet the future needs of the middle mile,” the bill reads.