Today, it is imperative to have high-speed Internet for homework, employment applications, job training, health services and civic activities. Yet, according to the 2016 Survey on Broadband Adoption in California conducted by the Field Research Corporation, 16% of Californians do not have a broadband (high-speed Internet) connection at home and cannot properly participate in our digital economy.
The Digital Divide in California is particularly acute for rural communities and poor neighborhoods. Broadband wireline deployment is available to 95.5% of the population versus the Legislature’s 2017 goal of 98%. In terms of home broadband adoption, only 84% of the population has high-speed Internet versus the proposed goal of 90%. Further, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reported in April 2016 that only 43% of rural households have access to reliable broadband service.
The Legislature established the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) in 2008, and authorized $315 million to be collected over the past 7 years, from a small fee on phone bills, to support deployment of broadband into unserved and underserved areas to help close the Digital Divide. CASF has funded 57 projects and reached over 300,000 households. Nevertheless, CASF is out of money for infrastructure deployment with 14 pending projects.
What This Act Will Do
The Internet For All Now Act authorizes additional collection of funds into CASF. The Act:
- Authorizes $50 million per year for 10 years for total additional funding of $500 million into CASF.
- Maintains funding priorities for last-mile, unserved households to achieve the Legislature’s goal of 98% deployment and promise to rural California.
- Recognizes the need for cost-effective, middle-mile with “first right of opportunity” for incumbent broadband providers to help meet the goal.
- Transitions CASF support to higher speeds (25/3 Mbps) after the 98% goal is met in order to remain competitive and align CASF with FCC new speed goals.
- Ensures that $100 million is used to help those on the wrong side of the Digital Divide learn how to improve the quality of their lives through training and adoption.
- Allocates $10 million to the California Telehealth Network to leverage more than $21 million from the FCC Healthcare Connect Fund to get Californian’s fair share.
- Ensures that the most disadvantaged residents living in publicly-subsidized housing will be online and able to participate in the Digital Economy to get out of poverty.
- Provides proven project management tools for the CPUC to enhance efficiency and effectiveness: project management; value engineering; grants management.