Senator Lena Gonzalez’s Legislation to Help Close the Digital Divide Passes Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee

May 27, 2020

Sacramento, Calif.- Today, Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) issued the following statement regarding her legislation, SB 1130, which passed the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee with bi-partisan support by a vote of 11-2. SB 1130 aims to close the digital divide for Californians in poor urban and rural areas by updating the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to encourage deployment of 21st century-ready high-speed broadband internet in unserved areas. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear what many of us already knew - access to universal Broadband is critical in the 21st century.  High-speed fiber internet infrastructure is necessary for students doing coursework online, residents accessing tele-health via digital platforms, and employees working from home.

Current law prohibits the California Public Utilities Commission from funding modern high-speed broadband infrastructure if a community has a DSL connection of 6 mbps download by 1 mbps upload (“6/1 standard”). This connection speed is outdated and obsolete for many current internet demands. Consequently, this prohibition has left many Californians with inadequate internet and has increased disparities in internet access for vulnerable communities. While most demographic groups have seen a significant increase in broadband subscriptions at home, gaps persist for low-income, less educated, rural, African American, and Latino households. Between 54% and 67% of these households had broadband subscriptions in 2017, compared to 74% for all households.

“I am extremely proud that SB 1130 passed out of committee. It demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to closing the digital divide during this crucial time in our state’s history, and it acknowledges that our most vulnerable communities cannot continue to wait for high-speed internet and the opportunities that it brings. I will continue to move SB 1130 through the legislature because it is critical to bringing high-speed broadband internet to all Californians,” said Senator Gonzalez.

"We are grateful that the Senate Utilities Committee understands that now is the time for the state of California to begin instituting a universal 21st century broadband infrastructure effort as envisioned by Senator Gonzalez's SB 1130. We look forward to working with the remainder of the Senate as it moves forward and hope for its quick passage. The sooner we can begin statewide transition towards fiber broadband, the sooner the digital divide comes to an end," said Ernesto Falcon, Senior Legislative Counsel at Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a persistent digital divide in our state and across the nation. California can lead the way and address these inequities by making sure kids across the state have the robust internet needed to participate in 21st-century learning. Common Sense is proud to be a cosponsor of this critical legislation,” said Jim Steyer CEO of Common Sense Media.