California's upcoming open fiber network could make fast broadband more accessible

A newly passed bill clears the way for speedy 'middle-mile' service.

Alessandro Bianchi / reuters

California might soon make it practical for small internet providers to deliver speedy broadband, not just well-heeled incumbents. Ars Technica reports that the state Assembly and Senate have unanimously passed legislation that will create a statewide open fiber network that promises truly fast internet access from smaller ISPs, particularly in rural or otherwise underserved areas.

The strategy will devote $3.25 billion to the construction of a "middle-mile" network that won't directly connect customers, but should make it much easier for ISPs to launch or upgrade their service. Another $2 billion will help those providers establish last-mile connections to users.

Governor Newsom has yet to sign the legislation into law, but that's considered a formality when he made agreements on details with legislators.

The network met resistance from larger ISPs that lobbied to block the reach of the open fiber network. It might have a significant impact on internet access in the state, however. While state and federal governments have pushed for improved rural broadband coverage for years, the focus has usually been on merely offering service rather than upgrading quality. This could bring truly competitive speeds to underserved areas and ensure they can access the same services as people subscribed to major broadband companies.