Access to broadband service is vital in today’s world and our rural north county area has a great need to improve access to the internet. Having a high-speed internet connection can make the difference when it comes to getting an education, a job, seeing a doctor or simply staying connected with family and friends. That’s why my caucus and I have long supported efforts to close the digital divide throughout California.
A study commissioned by the California Public Utilities Commission found that the cost of providing high-speed internet to every underserved Californian would be $6.8 billion The recently released “May Revise” to the State Budget proposes that $7 billion be allocated over the next three years to expand broadband infrastructure, increase affordability and enhance access to broadband for all Californians. $1.5 billion would come from the General Fund – California is currently running a surplus – and another $5.5 billion would be federally funded.
Many predominantly rural areas lack any connectivity, and in others service is spotty. Lack of adequate broadband service has a negative impact on many California schools, on the education provided to their students, and on the communities in which they’re located. Students living in rural or impoverished areas who can’t access high-speed internet are being deprived significant educational opportunities available elsewhere. Here locally, as many of you know, internet service is either sketchy or unavailable in some areas.
This may be a once-in-a-generation chance to expand broadband infrastructure throughout California. With 20 broadband-related bills pending in the Capitol, many different and competing strategies will need to be hashed out. Nevertheless, there is currently a sense of urgency regarding the issue, and taking action has wide, bi-partisan support.
Closing the digital divide that impacts millions of Californians is essential. And now, we have the ability to do something about it.