Sen. Gonzalez Holds Press Conference on Broadband for All Bill that Will Help Generate Upwards of $1 Billion in Funds to Deploy High-Tech Broadband Infrastructure to Bridge the Digital Divide

December 03, 2020

Sacramento, Calif. – Today, Senator Lena A. Gonzalez (D- Long Beach) will hold a virtual press conference at 10:00 a.m. to highlight “Broadband for All”, a bold legislative proposal she will be introducing on Monday, December 7th for the new 2020-2021 legislative session. Senator Gonzalez’s “Broadband for All” bill will generate upwards of $1 billion in funds needed to deploy high quality broadband infrastructure to end the inequity California low income, rural, urban families and minorities face in work, education and healthcare due to lack of internet access. 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 Broadband for All bill builds on the momentum of over 50 organizations, and federal and state leadership to advance efforts to deploy and finance high-speed internet. This bill is sponsored by Common Sense and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and has support from the Rural County Representatives of California. Remarks will be provided by one of the most respected experts and entrepreneurs on issues related to children, education, and media and technology in the United States, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Common Sense, James Steyer. Community members from both rural and urban areas, and from the health industry will also provide remarks on how Broadband for All will tackle the inequities families, students and patients experience in distance learning and telehealth due to the digital divide.

“This is a crisis for students and the education community and a growing barrier to accessing healthcare for our most vulnerable populations. We need to address the digital divide now, before it’s too late,” said Senator Lena A. Gonzalez (D- Long Beach). “COVID-19 has shown us how important this is, and how much we are risking. Students are falling behind, struggling at home to get schoolwork done, sitting outside neighbor’s houses, WIFI busses, parks and fast-food restaurants to get internet, and that is not acceptable. Patients can’t access telehealth safely from home to get the critical medical care they need. Broadband for All is one of California’s solutions to ending the inequities caused by the digital divide. This bill will provide over a billion dollars in funding for faster broadband infrastructure to reach tens of thousands of families across the state. Broadband is not a luxury, it’s a right. There’s no reason to keep jeopardizing the education and health of so many Californians with slow and outdated broadband infrastructure.”

The bill will work to close the digital divide for Californians in poor urban and rural areas in order to keep families, students, and workers connected. The digital divide has long been an issue, but the current COVID-19 crisis has shed light on the digital disparities in the state’s poorest areas despite California being in the cradle of the national tech economy. This legislation will require the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to update the California Advanced Service Fund (CASF) program to encourage deployment of 21st century-ready high-speed broadband internet.

"Now more than ever we need to connect all students and families and close the digital divide for good, and keep it closed,” said James Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense. “This bill would ensure that we provide a critical digital safety net for all Californians, something all Americans deserve. Common Sense commends Senator Gonzalez and is proud to co-sponsor this bill which is a critical step to connecting all families and ensuring digital equity."

"Broadband is as essential as water and electricity and the state needs to start treating the digital divide as an infrastructure challenge,” said Ernesto Falcon, Senior Legislative Counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Senator Lena Gonzalez's legislation charts a path to do just that by unlocking billions in grants and bonds to make long term investments over the coming decade to permanently end the digital divide. Let today's pandemic be the last time we leave any Californian behind on broadband access and build towards a more equal future."

“Telemedicine has become a lifeline for our communities in these difficult times,” said Ilan Shapiro, MD, Medical Director of Health Education and Wellness at AltaMed. “COVID-19 does not push out all the other diseases that can affect our patients, that is why opening the opportunity for better communications with the healthcare system through greater internet connectivity can change the landscape of social determinants of health for generations to come”.

“Broadband for All makes needed changes to the California Advanced Services Fund program, creating a more equitable broadband funding stream that prioritizes those areas of the state that lack the most basic broadband service,” said Paul A. Smith, Senior Vice President, Governmental Affairs at Rural County Representatives of California. “This measure will allow for more innovative projects in both urban and rural regions of the state, and will support local governments in providing high-quality, reliable internet service to their constituents. Broadband for All will finally shift the paradigm on closing the digital divide by focusing on deployment of quality infrastructure and investment in local communities”.