Today, we are all aware of the digital inequities that affect our ability to access and afford high-speed internet and the urgent need to increase digital literacy and access to devices so no one is left behind.
In California, it is estimated that over 2 million people do not have access to high-speed broadband service at benchmark speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download. Internet speed matters because it determines how fast you can perform a task online, like checking your email or attending a meeting on Zoom, and how many devices your network can handle at a time. This means that people who have slower internet speeds are more likely to experience buffering when streaming a video, have poor video and audio quality on Zoom, or get dropped from a call, especially if they have multiple devices (e.g., cellphone, laptop, smart tv, etc.) connected to their network.
Studies show that the digital divide is not just an issue for rural communities, cities are also struggling to close the divide. A state-wide survey conducted by USC and California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), found that 19 percent of Los Angeles County’s households either have no connection or rely on smartphones. Income was identified as a factor that impacts who has access to the internet, low-income households are unconnected or under connected at higher rates than households with higher incomes. Consequently, the survey identified affordability as the top reason why households do not have internet access.
In efforts to change that, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a list of broadband bills that help the State increase access to broadband for Californians. Among them are SB 4 Broadband for All Act and AB 14 Internet for All Act, which take effect immediately. These bills were designed to be contingently enacted, meaning that SB 4 must be approved in order for AB 14 to be enacted.
AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry) authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to continue imposing a surcharge aimed at collecting $330 million for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) through December 31, 2032. The funding collected from the surcharge will be used to provide grants for broadband related projects (e.g., infrastructure) that seek to expand connectivity. The bill also allows the CPUC to require that internet service providers (ISPs) report information regarding the free, low-cost, or affordable plans advertised by the service provider in order to better understand ISPs outreach efforts to eligible populations and learn about areas that are still lacking access.
SB 4 (Gonzalez) requires the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) to coordinate with other entities to explore “ways to facilitate streamlining of local land use approvals and construction permit processes for projects related to broadband infrastructure deployment and
Other broadband related bills signed by the Governor include:
- AB 41 (Wood) Broadband Infrastructure Deployment
- AB 537 (Quirk) Wireless Telecommunications and Broadband Facilities
- AB 955 (Quirk) Highways: Encroachment Permits: Broadband Facilities
- SB 28 (Caballero) Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006: Deployment Data.
- SB 378 (Gonzalez) Local Government: Broadband Infrastructure Development Project Permit
Processing: Microtrenching Permit Processing Ordinance.
You can read the full press release from Governor Newsom’s Office here.