California could cut billions of dollars from broadband funding


California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed billions of dollars in cuts to broadband expansion programs across the state in an effort to address a budget shortfall

By: Brad Randall, Broadband Communities

The California Alliance for Digital Equity is calling on policymakers in California to reconsider proposed cuts that the organization has claimed would jeopardize the future local broadband projects.

The organization, which describes itself as a community-based coalition that advances digital inclusion, said they were disappointed after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a series of proposed public broadband cuts to the tune of nearly $2 billion, according to published reports.

With a May 14 statement posted on X, the California Alliance for Digital Equity took aim at the governor’s proposed slash in funding to the Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative (MMBI), a planned middle-mile open access network that was granted $3.25 billion of funding with Senate Bill 156 in July 2021.

“We are extremely disappointed to see the governor’s promised $1.5 billion investment in the (MMBI) has been retracted,” the organization’s statement read. “The MMBI is a once in a generation state broadband infrastructure project that needs additional investment to meet its goal of bringing equitable high-speed broadband service to all Californians.”

Without secured future investment, the California Alliance for Digital Equity warned that a fifth of the network could be left uncompleted.

The organization’s statement continued.

“The MMBI is once again at risk of becoming a broadband infrastructure investment that effectively perpetuates the same divestment practices of industry stakeholders who have bypassed high-poverty urban, rural, and tribal communities for generations.”

The California Alliances for Digital Equity’s statement also said it would be “deeply regrettable” to see funding for the MMBI collapse.

“California communities deserve better,” the organization’s statement read. “The governor and the state should hold to their promises.”

A revised budget from Gov. Newsom would cut $19.1 billion in one-time spending and ongoing spending by over $13 billion, according to a fact sheet released by the governor’s office.

The fact sheet described the cuts as “reducing non-essential spending” to address a current and projected budget deficit of over $27 billion for 2024-2025, and over $28 billion for 2025-2026.

Along with a $1.7 billion reduction in broadband infrastructure project funding, has reported that the cuts would include $325 million for broadband projects backed by local communities, tribes, and non-profits, along with $34 million in cuts from funding that would have provided rural libraries with high-speed broadband.

Earlier this month, the California Department of Technology announced that over 65 percent of the MMBI “has reached the critical milestones of pre-construction, construction, purchase, and/or lease—nearly 15 months ahead of schedule.”

“With approximately $2.9 billion currently at work and creating jobs, the Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative has signed four leases for 3,485 miles, purchased 435 miles, and with private sector partners and (California Department of Transportation) the program is on track to construct 2,664 miles by the end of this year,” the department’s May 6 announcement stated.

Gov. Newsom addressed some of his proposed cuts with a May 10 statement on his office’s website.

“Even when revenues were booming, we were preparing for possible downturns by investing in reserves and paying down debts – that’s put us in a position to close budget gaps while protecting core services that Californians depend on,” he said. “Without raising taxes on Californians, we’re delivering a balanced budget over two years that continues the progress we’ve fought so hard to achieve, from getting folks off the streets to addressing the climate crisis to keeping our communities safe.”

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