Capitol Alert

DMV awards multimillion-dollar contract to Comcast for major tech upgrade

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has awarded a multi-million dollar contract to Comcast to overhaul its technology network, according to documents obtained through a Public Records Act request.

The agreement, reached in August and launched in September, will allow Comcast to swap out the DMV’s computer network. It aims to improve the speed at which the department can use the Internet and process customer transactions.

While several details about the contract with Comcast were omitted in the released documents, the contract says the DMV will have to pay nearly $400,000 in monthly recurring charges for five years — a total of $24 million. Comcast will make an investment of about $6.2 million “in good faith partnership with the DMV,” according to the contract.

According to the DMV, the upgrade will save the department about $3 million each year.

“This new agreement will provide the DMV with more reliable statewide connectivity and bandwidth, offers redundancy, reduces downtime and will allow us to better interact with field offices statewide,” the DMV said in a statement.

In a September interview, newly appointed DMV Director Steve Gordon, who worked at Cisco for 18 years and came to the DMV with a background in technology services, called the department’s technology “alarming” and vowed to turn things around.

When he appointed Gordon in July, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the DMV’s technology is “Byzantine,” adding that the technology “predates cobalt.”

“There have been efforts in the past by multiple administrations to upgrade that technology,” Newsom added. “They have come short, as have the overwhelming majority of efforts to improve our technology in this state. It is a major issue and should be one of the top issues for taxpayers.”

Customers experienced excessive wait times in the summer of 2018, which the department said was largely due to launching the federally mandated Real ID and statewide Motor Voter programs. But aging infrastructure was also to blame.

The push to replace the DMV’s technology network came in response to a March audit from the state’s Department of Finance, which found that an “insufficient network system infrastructure and lack of monitoring processes contributed to field office outages, impacting customers’ ability to obtain DMV services.”

The finance department said “significant components affecting network connectivity” needed to be updated because the “DMV’s practices for monitoring and resolving IT related issues are ineffective.”

The report also accused the DMV of having a “reactive culture” and offered a series of other recommendations, ranging from accepting credit cards at field offices to making more use of text message notifications.

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Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.
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