The construction industry might have been slow to adopt the wonders of the electronic world, but it is now facing a multi-billion opportunity to bring high-speed Internet to all of California.

The legislature passed, and the governor signed Senate Bill 156 this summer. This new law advances the statewide broadband plan with expanded physical infrastructure prioritizing underserved rural and urban areas. It sets aside six billion dollars in state funding for the task.

This new tech challenge for our businesses comes in the form of learning the intricate work needed to bring buried fiber optic cables to connect everybody. Our Rebuild Southern California Partnership (RCSP) along with sister organizations around the state are gearing up to keep this opportunity available to local contractors.

SB 156 Includes

  • $3.25 billion to build, operate and maintain an open access, state-owned middle mile* network – high-capacity fiber lines that carry large amounts of data at higher speeds over longer distances between local networks.
  • $2 billion to set up last-mile (local) broadband connections that will connect homes and businesses with local networks. The legislation expedites project deployment and enables Native America Tribes and local governments to access this funding.
  • $750 million for a loan loss reserve fund to bolster the ability of local governments and nonprofits to secure financing for broadband infrastructure.
  • Creation of a “broadband czar” at the California Department of Technology, and a broadband advisory committee with representatives from state government agencies and members of the legislature.

The construction world is going to run headlong into this new bureaucracy required under SB 156, which is gearing up to turn those billions into projects through Caltrans, counties, and cities all over the state. As you might have guessed, this is turning into something of a free-for-all.

*A definition of the term “middle mile,” is necessary. The Internet is a network of networks. Middle Mile is the fiber optic connection between the various network hubs that enables transmission of data on a regional basis to a local access point so users can connect to the internet through their provider. Clear?

That leads us to the new Middle Mile Advisory Committee in the Department of Technology from whence all things are supposed to flow. There are ten people on the committee, none of whom are from private industry. The committee’s next meeting will be November 17 and RSCP will be monitoring the proceedings and reporting back. Stay tuned next month for more opportunities in fiber optic land.

By Dave Sorem, P.E. ECA Government Affairs Chairman email: [email protected]