We at California Health Advocates have submitted our support for SB 556 – The California Connectivity Act, introduced by Senator Bill Dodd. Californians rely on wireless services for distance learning, telehealth, public safety, remote working and more. The pandemic has made clear that reliable, high-speed wireless broadband is a lifeline and that a lack of connectivity can reinforce and widen educational and economic disparities. Increasing access to wireless broadband is a critical part of the solution following Governor Newsom’s $6 billion investment into expanding broadband for all.
SB 556 (The California Connectivity Act):
- Empowers California to create a predictable siting process for small wireless facilities – “small cells”– by refining requirements and bringing the state into conformance with existing federal and state laws, promoting greater clarity for wireless permit review.
- Preserves local control over safety and aesthetic concerns and conforms with all state and local safety and zoning regulations for small cells, including for wireless network resiliency.
- Provides reasonable, non-discriminatory access to publicly-owned utility and government streetlight and traffic signal poles at rates defined by a clear, ‘cost-based’ formula that already exists in California statute.
- Brings wireless high-speed internet to communities without access today, including a significant number of low-income Californians who rely on smartphones to access essential services.
- Ensures accountability in achieving equitable access by requiring wireless providers to monitor their progress toward reaching California’s universal broadband access goals by reporting wireless broadband coverage by census tract annually to the Legislature.
- The economic benefits of effective deployment of 5G should not be ignored. The Boston Consulting Group estimates 5G deployment could generate 736,000 new jobs in California in the coming decade with $316.3 billion in GDP growth.
- SB 556 has drawn widespread bipartisan support from members representing urban and rural regions and more than 25,000 Californians, recognizing the urgent need for wireless broadband services.