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Lawmakers Mull Affordable Internet, Facial Recognition Bills

The Legislature is considering bills setting requirements around procurement contracts with Internet service providers, the use of facial recognition technology and electronic signatures, among others.

The main entrance to the California Capitol building.
California’s legislative session is still in its early days, but lawmakers are already taking up key issues of equality in government technology.

Bills now active in the Legislature take aim at the availability of affordable Internet, the usage of facial recognition technology and electronic signatures, and look to drive the conversation around artificial intelligence. Among the takeaways:

  • Assembly Bill 1588, from Assemblymember Lori Wilson, D-Suisun City, is otherwise known as the Affordable Internet and Net Equality Act of 2024. The latest iteration of the Affordable Internet and Net Equality Act, which dates at least to 2022, it would require the Department of Technology (CDT), to work with the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of General Services on establishing the Net Equality Program. AB 1588 would require the state and state agencies to only enter into procurement contracts with Internet service providers (ISPs) that offer “affordable home Internet service” costing no more than $40 per month and meeting specified minimum speed requirements to households taking part in certain public assistance programs; or with ISPs participating in the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, or other similar low-cost state or federal broadband affordability programs for qualifying households. CDT would be required to post every year on its website a list of ISPs meeting the bill’s requirements. Exclusions from the bill’s requirements include ISPs with fewer than 100,000 residential subscribers in California; contracts inked prior to Jan. 1, 2026; cities and counties; the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
  • AB 1814, from Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would bar a law enforcement agency or peace officer from conducting an arrest, search or warrant based solely on the use of a facial recognition technology-generated (FRT) match. The bill would build from Ting’s previous bill, AB 1215, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in October 2019, temporarily barring law enforcement from using FRTs. It expired Jan. 1, 2023, per Ting’s website. AB 642, from Ting last year, would have set uses and requirements around FRT — and required CDT and the chief of the Office of Information Security to issue standards around the confidentiality and security of FRT data and results — but was held in committee. AB 1814 has been referred to the Assembly committees on Public Safety, and Privacy and Consumer Protection.
  • Assembly Bill 1879, from Assemblymember Mike Gipson, D-Carson, would build on existing law authorizing digital signatures as a type of electronic signature in a written communication with a public entity. The bill would require, at the option of the parties involved, the use or acceptance of an electronic signature, with the same significance or force as a manual signature. It would drive use of electronic signatures in tax-related transactions, authorizing electronic signatures instead of a hand, facsimile, or other signature in executing a document required of a taxpayer “for purposes of any tax imposed pursuant to specified property tax laws”; and would require county assessors to accept electronic signatures per its provisions, deeming them equal legally to hand, facsimile or other signatures. The bill had its first reading Monday.
  • AB 1824, from Assemblymember Avelino Valencia, D-Anaheim, is an intent bill founded on existing law requiring CDT to inventory all proposed or in-use high-risk automated decision systems that use artificial intelligence, machine learning, statistical modeling or data analytics. The bill, aimed at stimulating discussion, would state the Legislature’s intent to enact legislation requiring disclosure of AI-generated content. It may be heard in committee Feb. 11, but does not appear to have been referred to committee following a first reading Jan. 11.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.