Bill addressing digital divide in underserved communities moves to state Senate’s Appropriations Committee

In an effort to bridge the digital divide, the California Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee passed SB 1130, which prioritizes fiber access for all Californians in underserved communities, authored by 33rd District Senator and former Long Beach Councilmember, Lena Gonzalez.

The bill passed on an 11-2 vote and is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee where it will be heard in June.

The passage of this bill would update the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to boost the distribution of high-speed broadband internet in underserved areas.

In a statement to the Signal Tribune, Senator Gonzalez said, “SB 1130 is important to me because I deeply understand the disadvantage that our community is at when they don’t have access to adequate internet. High-speed internet is crucial to our children’s schoolwork, accessing medical care, working from home, and trying to re-enter the workforce during this uncertain time. Our communities already have enough to worry about during this pandemic, internet access shouldn’t be one of those things.”

The senator stated that no specific geographical region in California will get priority under this legislation.

“SB 1130 is about first bringing internet to communities that have zero access and then bringing other communities with inadequate internet up to 21st-century internet standards,” Gonzalez said. “SB 1130 seeks to solve the digital divide throughout the whole state, we are not picking winners or losers.”

According to a news release on the state senator’s website, current law does not allow the California Public Utilities Commission to fund modern high-speed broadband infrastructure if a community has a “DSL connection of 6 megabits per second download by 1 megabit per second upload.” Essentially, that kind of connection speed is outdated for current internet demands and uses.

As it stands, the law has left numerous California residents with internet access that does not meet their needs and has created a gap in internet access for communities that are vulnerable.

The release on Gonzalez’s website states, “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,” Gonzalez said in the news release. 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.”

If the measure passes out of the Appropriations Committee, SB 1130 will be voted on by the Senate as a whole later in June.

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