Sen. Gonzalez Introduces Broadband for All Act to Bridge the Digital Divide and Address Inequity Underlined by COVID-19: CA Low Income, Rural, Urban Families and Minorities Face Greater Challenges Accessing Education and Healthcare due to Lack of Internet

December 07, 2020

Sacramento, Calif. – Today, Senator Lena A. Gonzalez (D- Long Beach) introduced Senate Bill 4, the Broadband for All Act to help bridge the digital divide that has long resulted in deep inequity for California low income, rural, urban families and minorities throughout the state. With students learning remotely and medically fragile patients in need of telehealth, lack of adequate internet service is an urgent matter of education and healthcare equity that necessitates bold legislative action. The bill is projected to generate critical funds to deploy high quality broadband infrastructure to bring high-speed internet service to underserved areas in the state. It consists of a unique financing model with a robust approach that will move California in the right direction as federal support to advance efforts to deploy and finance high-speed internet grows.

On this very first day of bill introductions in the California State Senate, the Broadband for All Act is principal co-authored by Assemblymembers Aguiar-Curry, Lorena Gonzalez and Eduardo Garcia. The bill is also co-authored by Senators Hertzberg, Stern, Skinner, McGuire, Durazo, Wiener, Caballero and Assemblymembers Rivas, Carrillo and Wicks.

“There is no time to waste on this urgent matter of equity,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach). No student should be worried about having to visit a neighbor’s house, fast-food restaurant, park or a WIFI bus to access the internet to do their homework or having to take turns with their siblings to access WIFI because the connection is too slow. Medically fragile patients from low-income communities shouldn’t have to worry about visiting their doctor during a pandemic because they do not have internet at home for a telemedicine appointment. We need to take action now to bridge the digital divide and bring an end to the inequity that our communities most in need have long suffered. We cannot continue to call ourselves the fifth largest economy in the world and still have thousands of families without access to adequate internet”.

Members of the legislature express their support for the legislative proposal and comment on the importance of bridging the digital divide.

"I am honored to join Senator Gonzalez in partnership, as we coauthor each other’s legislation to bring accessible, affordable, internet to all Californians. We have both worked diligently this year to assure every resident in every community across our great state has access to internet technology that is adaptable as needs and technical capacity grow," said Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters). "We each made great individual progress this year in building support for universal connectivity in, and funding for, both urban and rural communities. Together, and with the backing of so many of our Assembly and Senate colleagues, we will deliver a 21st Century program that will support advances in distance learning, telehealth services, remote work, and small business access to the digital economy. California, the home of the Silicon Valley, cannot continue to sustain the fifth largest economy in the world with Third World technology."

“California must take swift action to bridge the digital divide. Internet access is a matter of public health, safety, education, and economic urgency,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). “This measure builds on our previous success with AB 1665, the Internet for All Now Act of 2017, which increased resources to expand broadband infrastructure in unserved communities. Senator Gonzalez has been a strong voice on internet disparities, and it is my privilege to join her and a coalition of our colleagues to put forward a package of policy solutions.”

“Reliable broadband internet access has always been a huge barrier for low-income and rural families in California. Amid this pandemic, our digital divide has made it impossible for some students to learn from home,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). “We need to step up and act on this issue to help stop students from falling behind because of lack of connectivity.”

“As we enter this new Legislative session, our priority remains on the collective recovery from COVID-19,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys). “We must ensure that every Californian has the right tools and resources that are available, and broadband accessibility is one of the most important ways to make that happen. Our students, our businesses, our communities are counting on us, and I’m dedicated to helping close the current digital divide.”

“Just ask any parent who is helping their child navigate distance learning in the middle of this pandemic: having fast, reliable Internet access is no longer a ‘want,’ it’s a critical need, “said Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles). “Broadband should be treated as an essential piece of infrastructure and we should be thinking about it just as we’ve always thought about the roads and freeways we need to get to work, school, and everywhere else we need to go.”

“It’s unconscionable that here in the tech capital and wealthiest state, there are neighborhoods that have no or inadequate internet access,” said Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). “Up to 1 million California kids, mostly in low-income urban and rural areas, are falling behind because they can’t reliably access the distance-learning schools now rely on. I’m proud to co-author the Broadband for All legislation by Sen. Lena Gonzalez to close California’s digital divide. Our kids can’t afford to wait.”

“50% of rural households in California don’t have access to high-speed internet and hundreds of thousands in large metropolitan centers face similar challenges,” said Senator Mike McGuire (D-North Coast). “Bridging the digital divide is a bipartisan issue and it’s an issue of equity. We’re grateful to team up with Senator Gonzalez to push aside the old excuses and advance commonsense solutions to connect the Golden State.”

“It is time for California to recognize that access to the internet is no different from the need to access electricity or gas,” said Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles). “I am glad to support Senator Gonzalez’ proposed solution to ensure that every household from every background can make the same use of this essential utility, especially our children and youth.”

“We must ensure that every Californian has access to broadband. During COVID-19, we’ve asked parents and children to stay home and rely on the internet for their jobs and schoolwork. But far too many – particularly low-income and rural families – either don’t have access to internet or have poor access, which makes working and learning from home impossible. We must act quickly to ensure everyone has access to broadband and thus access to opportunity,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

“The impacts of the COVID 19 virus have thrown a spotlight on the disparities in broadband quality, availability and access across the state now that commerce, business and education all must be conducted online,” said Senator Anna M. Caballero (D – Salinas). It is clear that California was unprepared for the need to have a reliable internet system. The legislature must take immediate action to remedy this situation and assure all Californians that high speed, high quality, affordable broadband internet will be available for every family and every business in every region of the state.”

“Broadband access improves lives. It has become a basic necessity,” said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-Arleta). “This pandemic has highlighted how critical broadband is to accessing quality education, careers, health care, and even basic needs like food. If we are to ensure equity for all, we must include broadband access for all.”

“California is facing a broadband access crisis. Students are relying more than ever on the internet in order to attend school at home amid a global pandemic,” said Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles). “We cannot allow students to fall behind because of inadequate internet connections when California is home to the tech capital of the world. The Broadband for All Act is a step in the right direction to address the digital divide, no more excuses.”

“The digital divide weighs most heavily on communities that are already disproportionately impacted by this pandemic - many juggling working full-time with the second job of ensuring a quality education for their child,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland). “California families are already doing everything they can to adjust to this new reality, a reality that depends on reliable, high-quality broadband access. Now, it’s incumbent upon the legislature to make sure these connectivity needs are being met, and that no adult, child, or family falls behind because they aren’t.”