Social and Economic Justice for Californians in the Digital Age

Today, high-speed Internet (broadband) access is essential for homework, employment applications, job training, health services, and civic activities.  Yet 16% of Californians do not have high-speed Internet at home and 14% connect to the Internet only with a smartphone.  Too many low-income, rural, and disabled Californians are disenfranchised from our Digital Economy because of cost and lack of access.  (Source: 2016 Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, Field Research Corporation) 

The California Legislature’s goal of 98% broadband deployment in 2017 has not been met for many rural communities.  The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reported that only 47% of rural households have access to broadband Internet.  (Source: California Advanced Services 2016 Annual Report)

Only the Legislature Can Authorize Collection of More Funds into the California Advanced Services Fund

The California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) was established in 2008 by the Legislature and CPUC to close the Digital Divide.  CASF provides:  grants and loans for deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas; grants to regional consortia to advance broadband deployment, access, and adoption; and grants to public housing for access and/or adoption activities. Over the last 9 years the Legislature has authorized a total of $315 million into CASF by collecting a few cents per month on phone bills.  CASF has funded 58 projects to reach 110,755 households at an average CASF subsidy of $1,644 per household.  CASF is cost-effective compared to the FCC Connect America Fund 2 average subsidy in California of $2,550 per household.  CASF is almost out of money for infrastructure deployment with project applications pending and more in the pipeline.  CASF is the only source of support for broadband unless the Legislature enacts a new fee or tax or does a General Fund budget allocation.

What AB 1665 Will Do

The Internet For All Now Act (AB 1665) was introduced in the California Legislature in February 2017 by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia with joint and co-authorship from Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Chris Holden, Kevin McCarty, David Chiu,  Susan Eggman, Marc Levine, Kevin Mullin, Anna Caballero, Mike Gipson, Reginald Jones-Sawyer,  Jose Medina, Eloise Gómez Reyes, Blanca Rubio, and Jim Wood.  AB 1665 authorizes additional collection of funds into CASF.  It will:

  1. Fund infrastructure projects that provide broadband access to no less than 98% of California households by December 31, 2023.
  2. Establish a new Broadband Adoption Account to assist low-income Californian households in getting online.
  3. Require the CPUC to biennially report on CASF to the Legislature.
  4. Require the CPUC to identify priority unserved and underserved areas and delineate the priority areas in the biennial reports.
  5. Require the CPUC to consult regional consortia, stakeholders, and consumers regarding priority areas and cost-effective strategies to achieve the broadband access goal through public workshops conducted at least annually.

The California Emerging Technology Fund and supporters of AB 1665 recommend that the Legislature authorize up to $500 million over 10 years to be collected into CASF to achieve the following goals by 2023 to continue to close the Digital Divide in California:

  • 98% broadband infrastructure deployment in each region.
  • 90% adoption of home high-speed Internet service.

Passage of the Internet For All Now Act depends on community voices and civic leaders throughout California being heard by Legislators about the imperative to close the Digital Divide now as a 21st Century Civil Right—“access delayed is access denied.”

Internet For All Now is an education project of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and its partners. CETF provides leadership statewide to close the Digital Divide by accelerating broadband deployment and adoption of broadband for unserved and underserved communities and disadvantaged populations through public policy and community investments.