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AB-1176 Communications: universal broadband service: California Connect Fund. (2021-2022)

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Date Published: 04/19/2021 09:00 PM
AB1176:v98#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Assembly  April 19, 2021

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 amended, 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 participation, to coordinate with relevant state agencies and departments to increase program participation and increase the efficacy of enrollment, 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.
Existing law, the Emergency Telephone Users Surcharge Act, imposes a surcharge on each telecommunications access line for each month or part thereof for which a service user subscribes with a service supplier in an amount determined by the Office of Emergency Services, as specified.
This bill would require the commission to ensure that each service supplier remits to the commission revenues from a monthly surcharge not to exceed $0.23 per month per access line for deposit into the California Connect Fund.
This bill would include a change in state statute that would result in a taxpayer paying a higher tax within the meaning of Section 3 of Article XIII A of the California Constitution, and thus would require for passage the approval of 2/3 of the membership of each house of the Legislature.
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: MAJORITY2/3   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:

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 have 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 all 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. including, but not limited to, any of the following:
(i) The California Medical Assistance Program, also known as Medi-Cal (Chapter 7 (commencing with Section 14000) of Part 3 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code).
(ii) The Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (Article 2 (commencing with Section 123275) of Chapter 1 of Part 2 of Division 106 of the Health and Safety Code).
(iii) The Healthy Families Program (Part 6.2 (commencing with Section 12693) of Division 2 of the Insurance Code).
(iv) The federal National School Lunch Program (Chapter 13 (commencing with Section 1751) of Title 42 of the United States Code).
(v) The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Chapter 51 (commencing with Section 2011) of Title 7 of the United States Code).
(vi) The federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (Subchapter II (commencing with Section 8621) of Chapter 94 of Title 42 of the United States Code).
(vii) The California Alternate Rates for Energy or CARE program (Section 739.1).
(viii) The federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program (Subchapter 16 (commencing with Section 1381) of Chapter 7 of Title 42 of the United States Code).
(ix) The federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (Subchapter IV (commencing with Section 601) of Chapter 7 of Title 42 of the United States Code).
(x) A federal Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal Tanf) grant program.
(xi) A tribal Head Start program.
(xii) General assistance from the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the United States Department of the Interior (Part 20 (commencing with Section 20.100) of Chapter 1 of Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations).
(xiii) The California Health Benefit Exchange (Covered California) established pursuant to Section 100500 of the Government Code.
(xiv) The California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program, referred to as CalWORKs (Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11200) of Part 3 of Division 9 of the Welfare and Institutions Code).
(B) Student qualification. Student qualification may be demonstrated by the enrollment of one or more members of the household in the federal National School Lunch Program of a qualifying school maintaining kindergarten prekindergarten, kindergarten, or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, or in a qualifying community college, as determined by the commission.
(C) Four-year college and university student qualification. Students of a four-year college or university may qualify if the student is a recipient of financial aid under the federal Pell Grant Program (20 U.S.C Sec. 1070a) or the student’s income meets any of the eligibility criteria for the Cal Grant Program (Chapter 1.7 (commencing with Section 69430) of Part 42 of Division 5 of Title 3 of the Education Code).
(2) Automatic enrollment for households enrolled in the federal National School Lunch Program or CalWORKS.

(2)

(3) 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)

(4) 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)

(5) Subsidies may only be used for broadband service at speeds of at least 100 megabits per second (mbps) downstream. downstream, where available. The commission shall develop a process for determining threshold speeds, to the greatest extent practicable, for households where speeds of at least 100 mbps downstream are not available, but any lesser speed approved by the commission shall have a latency that is sufficiently low to allow real-time interactive applications.
(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. The commission shall coordinate with relevant state agencies and departments to increase program participation and increase the efficacy of enrollment, including, but not limited to, automatic enrollment processes and the announcement of the program on department websites.
(e) (1) The commission shall ensure that each service supplier subject to Section 41030 of the Revenue and Taxation Code remits to the commission revenues from a monthly surcharge for deposit into the California Connect Fund subject to both of the following requirements:
(A) The surcharge shall not exceed twenty three cents ($0.23) per month per access line.
(B) For each service supplier, the surcharge shall apply to the same number of access lines as the 911 surcharge imposed pursuant to Section 41020 of the Revenue and Taxation Code.
(2) Service supplier-specific access line information shall be used solely for purposes of surcharge collection for the California Connect Fund program.

(e)

(f) 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)

(g) 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)

(h) 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.