LONG BEACH (CNS) - An area legislator announced plans today to introduce a “Broadband for All'' bill that could generate upwards of $1 billion in funds needed to deploy high-quality broadband infrastructure to bridge the digital divide, calling it an “urgent necessity.''
“In the midst of this historic pandemic (and) subsequent economic downturn, we routinely witness how important it is for our constituents ... from urban and rural communities across the state that struggle to access reliable, affordable, high-speed broadband,'' state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, said during a virtual news conference announcing the measure. “In a time when internet access is required to access education, health care, visit families, stay employed, run a business -- everything that needs to function for our economy, we know that high-speed broadband is not a luxury and it should not be viewed as that. It's an urgent necessity.''
The bill would update the California Advanced Services Fund by making communities eligible for grants based on their internet need, promoting deployment of high-speed, 100mbps broadband and making it easier for local governments to apply for grants and finance their own infrastructures, according to Gonzalez's office.
The bill will also empower local governments to build securely with greater state support through bond financing and increasing the ability to better leverage federal funds.
The measure -- co-sponsored by Common Sense and the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- is supported by more than 50 organizations and is set to be introduced Monday, the state senator said.
“From the standpoint of kids and families and schools in California, broadband for all is a complete no-brainer. We all know this,'' said James Steyer, Common Sense's founder and chief executive officer. “You have to have broadband access to be a citizen in California or any part of the world today. And we need to provide this to every single citizen in California, particularly our kids and families who are going to school remotely in many cases whether they're in rural districts or urban districts.''
He noted that there are an estimated 1.3 million children in the state who lack sufficient access to broadband and said about 900,000 are children of color, adding that there are “important equity issues where not just low-income families but communities of color are disproportionately victims of the digital divide.''
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