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Press Release: Statewide Coalition Calls for $8 Billion in Immediate Funding to Help Close Digital Divide
Press Release: Statewide Coalition Calls for $8 Billion in Immediate Funding to Help Close Digital Divide
SSDA
Tuesday, March 30, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Contact: Sara Bachez, Chief Governmental Relations Officer, CASBO
sbachez@casbo.org
(323) 702-6829

Statewide Coalition Calls for $8 Billion in Immediate Funding to Help Close Digital
Divide

Bold Broadband Investment Will Improve Health, Equity, Education and Economy

SACRAMENTO – A cross-sector coalition urges Governor Gavin Newsom to connect Californians with a one-time, $8 billion investment in high speed 100 Mbps broadband infrastructure and programs. The broad-based group representing education, health, local government and economic policy organizations believe bold investment in broadband infrastructure and support services is critical to improving health, equity, education and the economy statewide now and for years to come.


The coalition includes California Association of School Business Officials, the California Hospital
Association, California Forward Action Fund, California School Boards Association, California State Association of Counties, Rural County Representatives of California, Small School Districts’
Association and the Urban Counties of California.


A recent report commissioned by the CPUC found the cost of building future-proof fiber
connections to every unserved building and house in the state would be $6.8 billion. Included in
the budget ask is $2.2 billion to construct a statewide middle-mile network with open access fiber
and $4.6 billion to provide 100/10 Mbps fiber optics to buildings and houses currently without it. 

Either of these pieces—known as the middle mile or the last mile—would be insufficient if
implemented alone. Together, they can transform the educational, economic, and quality-of-life
landscape statewide by providing unconnected properties access to reliable broadband. The
investment also includes $1.2 billion for broadband adoption programs including devices, digital
skills training, service subsidies, and language access necessary for Californians to be able to use the broadband service available in schools, homes and businesses.

The funding request complements, rather than competes with, several important bills currently
pending in the Legislature. AB 14 and SB 4 would make important reforms to the CPUC’s
broadband infrastructure subsidy program and authorize a $1 billion revenue bond. Additionally, AB 34 would place a broadband bond on the November 2022 ballot.

With 8.4 million California residents without broadband subscriptions and a disproportionate rate
of underserved rural, tribal and communities of color, this one-time investment represents a
serious effort to make substantial progress on closing the digital divide, setting the stage for
California to once again be a leader in digital access.

QUOTES FROM COALITION PARTNERS:
“The time is now to lay a foundation that removes the barriers that have systematically denied
access to connectivity to our most vulnerable students and families,” said Tatia Davenport, CEO
of the California Association of School Business Officials. “This request is our opportunity to
implement a strategic vision that will have a significant, meaningful and long-lasting benefit to
our 6.1 million students and California communities.”


“Access to reliable internet is as essential to modern life as electricity or indoor plumbing,” said
CSAC First Vice President and Siskiyou County Supervisor Ed Valenzuela. “Statewide investment in broadband is long overdue and will ensure equitable access to public health, public safety,
education, entrepreneurship and economic opportunities regardless of geography or
population.”


“By investing in broadband, we are investing in our communities, our economy and the future of
our state,” said Micah Weinberg, Director, California Forward Action Fund. “We can no longer
afford inaction and the California Forward Action Fund is proud to join this broad coalition in
requesting a one-time investment that is a critical start to building the infrastructure needed to
serve all Californians.”


“Our children shouldered the heavy burden of staying home and adjusting their way of learning
completely in order to keep us safe,” said Urban Counties of California Board Chair and Santa
Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg. “They missed out on so many childhood milestones –
first day of school, first year, graduations and friendships. It is our imperative to honor this great
sacrifice. Investing in the support structures they need for this new way of learning is not only the
right thing to do but also the smart one; it’s an investment in our future.”

“The push to bridge California’s digital divide is a push for greater equity in every corner of the
state,” said Carmela Coyle, President and CEO of the California Hospital Association. “This is
especially important for health care, as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into stark relief
longstanding health disparities that can no longer be ignored. As we build for the future of health
care, one that will increasingly rely on new technologies like telehealth, it’s vital that all
communities have equitable access to these new methods of care.”


“The lack of equitable investment in reliable high-speed internet isn’t strictly a rural issue,” RCRC
Chair Stacy Corless states. “Too many communities throughout the state continue to suffer the
consequences of a system that has prioritized profit over fair access to this essential service. We,
as a state, must invest in robust and ubiquitous broadband for all Californians.”

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