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Calif. Might Stop Requiring Free Broadband for Public Housing

State senators in California advanced a bill that could mean ISPs no longer must provide free internet to receive public housing broadband grants. The California Senate Communications Committee voted 15-0 to clear SB-1383 at a livestreamed hearing Tuesday. Backed by…

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the cable industry, the bill would remove restrictions included in the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) public housing account. If the bill is enacted, the grants could support projects with plans that charge as much as $30 monthly. Also, the bill would let more types of organizations apply for and expressly authorize the California Public Utilities Commission to award funds for range extenders and other network enhancers. The fund is currently underutilized, said bill sponsor and committee Chair Steven Bradford (D). “Multiple low-income housing providers” say that the account’s free internet condition “is a major deterrent” to applying for grants, he said. Requiring free broadband “is a major deterrent,” echoed Amanda Gualderama, California Broadband and Video Association director-legislative and regulatory advocacy. The CPUC last year denied the cable industry group’s petition to reconsider what counts as free broadband service as it doles out public housing grants (see 2309010006). Last month, the commission approved changes to the public housing account with a clarification that grant recipients should provide free service without government subsidies (see 2403080010).