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State Broadband Push Swells Tech Agency Budget

One-time coronavirus fiscal recovery monies in the enacted Fiscal Year 2021-2022 California budget are dramatically increasing the state technology agency’s budget.

With an enacted budget document in place, the magnitude of California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic comes into increasingly sharp focus as state technology agency funding swells to historic levels.

The Fiscal Year 2021-2022 State Budget shows funding for the California Department of Technology growing to an unprecedented amount of nearly $3.8 billion. That’s far more than CDT’s original proposed budget of nearly $493 million in January, or its increased budget of more than $546 million in the May revision. (It’s also more than CDT’s approved FY 2020-2021 budget of $537 million.) Here are several highlights from CDT’s new budget — which includes 894 positions, up from 865 in FY 2020-2021 — that reflect the sharp increase in funding:

  • $3.25 billion in one-time Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funding for a Statewide Open Access Middle-Mile Broadband Network. Part of a $6 billion multi-year investment, it pays for “oversight, implementation, and maintenance of a statewide open access middle-mile broadband network.” In CDT’s new budget, state officials call this “a key component of the statewide effort to provide access to an affordable broadband network in currently unserved and underserved areas.” In the budget, this money is listed under “Other Funds.” Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers on July 12 announced agreement on Assembly Bill/Senate Bill 156, the budget trailer bill that would make all of this happen; Newsom signed the bill Tuesday.
    State Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, attended the signing and said in a statement that the bill “will have a huge impact by ensuring that all Californians, no matter whether they reside in rural, urban, or suburban California, have greater access to broadband for telehealth, education, economic opportunity, and countless everyday needs.”
  • $25 million in one-time money from the General Fund for Technology Modernization Funding “to fund technology modernization solutions in a timely and efficient manner.” The money will be available until June 30, 2024. The solutions, per the budget, “will be prioritized to improve or replace existing technology systems, increase information security, or improve the effectiveness of state entities.” Assembly Bill 1323, from San Francisco Democrat David Chiu, would require CDT to “identify, assess and prioritize legacy information technology system modernization efforts across state government” and require state entities to submit IT contracts to CDT before May 1, 2022. It is headed to the state Senate Committee on Governmental Organization.
  • $21 million from the General Fund for a Security Operations Center and Audit Program, paying for 49 Office of Information Security positions previously funded by the Technology Services Revolving Fund. The funding origin change “will sustain the Audit Program’s standard four-year audit cycle without cost recovery ramifications” to affected state entities, per the budget. It will also firm up Security Operation Center (SOC) funding, “ensuring state entities can focus their limited resources on critical security internal management and operational efforts to enhance their security infrastructure.” That’s an initiative dating to the January iteration of this budget and a pledge from Newsom to do “cybersecurity audits across the spectrum, every single state department.” The enacted budget reflects the commitment made then — in funding and staffing — to do the audits but take some of the onus off state entities.
  • $11.4 million from the General Fund and 17 positions to Stabilize Critical Services and IT Infrastructure. The funding and staff are aimed at steadying “critical digital services” and supporting California’s Broadband for All work. State Senate Bill 4 from Gonzalez, the Broadband for All Act, aims to ensure “continuous funding and ... critically needed reforms to the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) program administered by the California Public Utilities Commission,” her office has said. It is headed to Appropriations for consideration.
  • $2.3 million from the General Fund and 10 positions for staffing. That’s designed to “provide increased support to onboard state entities to the website” according to the budget — somewhat further described in last month’s Subcommittee Report 2021-2022 Budget as “(building) a dedicated team to focus on the development and continued evolution of the reimagined web portal.” Redesigning the state’s website has long been an area of interest for technologists; in March of last year, a team wrapped an initial round of innovation.
  • $1.1 million from the General Fund and two positions in FY 2021-22 and FY 2022-23 for Digital Identification. That’s to pay for “planning efforts to develop a Digital Identification technology for state services.” In remarks made in March, state Chief Information Security Officer Vitaliy Panych pointed out that about 300 services now exist among the state’s roughly 140 departments — and said having one state identity for residents would not only further secure identity management, but would improve the user experience.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.