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In Southern California, Leaders Mark Beginning of Key Broadband Work

State and local government officials commemorated a pivotal moment in California’s multibillion-dollar quest to improve access to high-speed Internet.

Newsom administration officials including California Department of Technology Director and state CIO Liana Bailey-Crimmins and California Government Operations Agency Secretary Amy Tong marking the start of construction Oct. 13 on the first section of a 10,000-mile broadband network to deliver high-speed Internet statewide.
Newsom administration officials marked the start of construction Oct. 13 on the first section of a 10,000-mile broadband network to deliver high-speed Internet statewide. Among those taking part were California Department of Technology Director Liana Bailey-Crimmins, who is state chief information officer, second from left; and California Government Operations Agency Secretary Amy Tong, center.
California Department of Technology
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State officials have taken a pivotal step in improving California’s high-speed Internet infrastructure.

Technologists joined state and local government leaders Thursday along State Route 67 (SR 67) in inland San Diego County, activating a machine to insert the first piece of fiber into the ground — formalizing the start of construction on what will be a 10,000-mile statewide broadband network.

“We’re starting construction today to get affordable high-speed internet in every California home because livelihoods depend on access to a reliable and fast internet connection,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. Among the takeaways:

  • The event, attended by officials including California Government Operations Agency Secretary Amy Tong and California Department of Technology Director Liana Bailey-Crimmins, who is state chief information officer, is only the “first leg” of the sprawling $3.8 billion statewide project to extend middle-mile fiber. The installation blew 500 feet of fiber-optic cable through conduit in the project’s first segment.
    “The rapid planning by the Middle-Mile team as well as our local partners is coming to fruition,” Bailey-Crimmins said in a statement. (At the recent California Digital Government Summit,* the state CIO alerted readers of Industry Insider — California to the project’s impending start.) “It’s wonderful to see the hard work paying off, to make a difference in the lives of Californians who live in unserved areas like this one.”
    “We expect more of the system to be under contract for construction by May 2023, with several more projects to have shovels in the ground by that time and more construction expected to begin in 2024,” Amy Norris, CDT’s deputy director of communications, told Industry Insider via email. Wherever possible, California is “taking advantage of ‘dig smart’ opportunities, in which fiber-optic cables are laid with previously planned highway construction projects,” she said, indicating the work on SR 67 is one of those opportunities, in an area not served by high-speed broadband.
    CDT, Norris said, oversees the Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative; Bailey-Crimmins chairs the Middle-Mile Advisory Committee, and the department “has been instrumental in the planning and initial phases of the project. As the construction experts with experience in fiber-optic cable installation, [the California Department of Transportation] Caltrans is assisting with designing and overseeing construction of the network statewide.” The project’s progress is visible via Middle-Mile Advisory Committee meetings, Norris said, where local governments may find “funding opportunities for last-mile projects that will bring new Internet service connections to homes and businesses at the Broadband for All portal.”
    “Caltrans released 5,100 miles of construction contract solicitations last week, and another 1,700 miles of construction contracts will be released in the coming weeks,” Norris said. “Last week, CDT also released for joint-build and lease opportunities.”
  • When the middle-mile build is complete, last-mile work will then run Internet connections to homes and businesses; and, the state said in its news release, efforts will be made to ensure residents can afford broadband service. Currently, 1 in 5 residents lack access to “reliable and affordable” high-speed Internet.
    “Too many rural and urban areas lack adequate broadband infrastructure, forcing residents to attempt to connect via mobile hot spots and unreliable satellite service, which leaves out too many Californians,” Tong, the former CDT director and state CIO, said in a statement.
  • In August and September, Caltrans released requests for qualification (RFQ) seeking companies to provide middle-mile broadband network construction manager/general contractor services. The work, of course, follows Newsom’s July 2021 signing of state Senate Bill 156, which provided $3.25 billion for building middle-mile infrastructure, as well as $2 billion for last-mile infrastructure — $1 billion each for rural and urban communities. The enacted 2022-2023 fiscal year state budget allocated $300 million from the General Fund in the 2023-2024 fiscal year; and $250 million from the General Fund in FY 2024-2025 for “broadband infrastructure” aimed at managing “cost pressures associated with the completion of the Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative.”

*The Digital Government Summits are hosted by Government Technology, Industry Insider — California’s sister publication.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.