Ubiquitous, seamless access to on-line resources

By: Doug Wood and Larry Ortega

Even the Governor’s excellent proposal to invest $7 billion to build a world class telecommunication infrastructure is threatened by the Wireless Cos.’ 3rd rate proposal to build-out 3rd rate technology known as 5G.  Right now there are several bills in Sacramento that are being pitched as the solution to solving the digital divide.  Look, it’s simple.  What people living in the digital divide need is: Ubiquitous, seamless access to on-line resources, not unlike how electricity and water is currently deployed/provided; with safety, integrity, and affordability at the center of policy on deployment decisions.

Contrary to this well understood principle the California legislature is intent (through SB556 and AB537) to fast-track the deployment of wireless technology by restricting the ability of local authorities to protect their communities with zoning laws and common-sense vetting processes; impeding the creation of competition. Of course the Wireless Cos. want absolute authority over the last mile.  It’s the last frontier for them to conquer.  If they are allowed to codify the monopolization of the last mile with 3rd rate 5G technology, it effectively shuts-down muni-broadband projects that promise lower prices, better service and safety for consumers. 

The bills SB556 and AB537 push local government on time and resources to process thousands of wireless antenna applications with a matter of weeks. If these laws are passed, mistakes will be made, antennas that present serious safety issues will be constructed, and if a city or county takes too long, it will be “deemed approved” and the installation will take place, regardless of potential threats to public safety.

How, you might ask, is this in the best interests of Californians? Why is the legislature putting its thumb on the scales in favor of wireless broadband access to the internet, rather than the faster, better, more affordable wired broadband access?

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and others don’t like the Governor’s proposal because it will cut into their potential profits. They’ve got a giant war chest, they’re going to use it to get what they want, and what they want is for the government to make it easier for them to get their inferior but highly profitable technology into place quickly, using taxpayer funds to protect their market.

We share the Governor’s concern for our kids and their future. We worry about communities of color, where lack of broadband access to the internet can mean the difference between learning a skill or not, of getting a degree or not, of getting a good job or not. We know that the digital divide was created by the telecoms themselves, as they made the cold, hard business decision not to bother installing their new technology in poor and rural communities because the Return On Investment just wasn’t worth it. We urge the Governor to fully embrace competition to Wireless Cos. by encouraging(funding) last-mile fiber deployment by the municipality.  Leaving the last mile in the hands of the telecoms will give us more of the same: high prices, disregard to safety/health of small children, and 3rd rate service, i.e. 5G.

We completely support the Governor’s proposal for a state-wide fiberoptic network that provides the “middle mile” so necessary for universal broadband connectivity, but we urge the Governor and all lawmakers not to ignore the “last mile.” Fiberoptic cable to and through the premises is the one and only solution to our digital divide, and anyone who believes the wireless industry will take care of the last mile is either gullible, badly misinformed or looking for a campaign contribution.