California launches 10,000 mile broadband construction project

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California Construction News staff writer

Construction is now underway on a 10,000-mile open access broadband network designed to bring high-speed internet to all California residents.

“California is now one step closer to making the digital divide a thing of the past,” said Governor Newsom. “We’re starting construction today to get affordable high-speed internet in every California home because livelihoods depend on equitable access to a reliable and fast internet connection. This is about ensuring that all Californians, no matter the zip code they call home, can be part of the Golden State’s thriving and diverse economy.”

Construction began Thursday on State Route 67 near Poway in San Diego County, where Newsom Administration officials gathered as 500 feet of fiber optic cable was blown through conduit in the first segment of a massive, $3.6 billion statewide project known as the “Middle Mile” broadband network.

The planned network, which will be the nation’s largest, will cover the entire state to help bring reliable, high-speed internet access to the millions of Californians who do not have it now. Roughly one in five Californians do not have access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet. Once complete, funding for “last mile” efforts will support internet connections from “middle mile” lines to homes and businesses, as well as efforts to ensure individuals can afford broadband service where it already exists.

Last year, the Governor signed historic legislation allocating $6 billion for achieving Broadband for All, including $3.25 billion for the middle-mile network and this year’s budget put an additional $550 million toward the project as it moves into construction.

The 2021 legislation included:

  • $3.25 billion to build, operate and maintain an open access, state-owned middle-mile network.
  • $2 billion to set up last-mile broadband connections that will connect homes and businesses with local networks. The legislation expedites project deployment and enables Tribes and local governments to access this funding.
  • $750 million for a loan loss reserve fund to bolster the ability of local governments and nonprofits to secure financing for broadband infrastructure.
  • Creation of a broadband czar position at the California Department of Technology, and a broadband advisory committee with representatives from across state government and members appointed by the Legislature.

Once the middle mile network is built, the state will fund “last mile” connections to hook up the middle mile network to homes and businesses. Local providers will be able to access the middle mile network to provide that direct service, as well as reduced-cost or free service for eligible residents.

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