California Lawmakers Ease the Rules for Rural Munis

Community Networks

Let the People Serve the People

California’s community service districts (CSDs) are independent local governments created by folks in unincorporated areas. CDSs provide services that would otherwise be provided by a municipality. Residents usually join together to form a CSD and do so to establish services such as water and wastewater management, garbage collection, fire protection, or similar services. A CSD also has the ability to create an enhanced infrastructure financing district (EIFD) in order to finance the development of a broadband network.

The EIFD statute granting the authority allows communities, including CSDs, to join together regional projects for a range of financing purposes. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and various bonding mechanisms are a few examples.

The law currently on the books, which AB 1999 will change, requires CSDs to first determine that no private entity or person is willing to offer broadband in their sector before they are allowed to invest to do so. If they manage to get past the requirement but an entity or person enters the picture and is willing to provide those services, the CSD must sell or lease the infrastructure they’ve developed. AB 1999 will remove the “private sector first” requirement and allow CSDs to finance, build, and operate broadband networks in rural areas.

[Emphasis added by editor]

In addition to the changes in how CSD investment can be handled, the bill establishes that networks developed by CSDs must adhere to network neutrality policies.

On to the Governor

The bill worked its way through the committee process with strong support and along the way our Christopher Mitchell testified to lawmakers. You can listen to his testimony and a short discussion of the bill in the Communications and Conveyance Committee here. When AB 1999 appeared before the General Assembly for its final vote, lawmakers passed it 57 – 22.

Governor Jerry Brown now has 12 days to sign, approve without signing, or veto AB 1999. If you live in California, especially if you’re in a rural region, you can still support this measure by contacting the Governor’s office and letting him know that you want him to support and/or sign AB 1999.

This change in the “private sector first” provision is highly significant, the question is will communities take advantage of the  “A CSD also has the ability to create an enhanced infrastructure financing district (EIFD) in order to finance the development of a broadband network.”

Your thoughts?

 

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