The Internet For All Now Act Spells Economic Opportunity for Fresno

On June 2, Amazon announced it will open a new fulfillment center in Fresno and hire 1,500-2,500 local workers. This is good news for Fresno’s economy; it is also a sign that even in California’s agricultural center, today’s jobs are digital.

Yet Fresno is not fully wired for the future, which means too many of its citizens are unprepared for these digital jobs. According to Watsonville GIS Center’s broadbandmaps, 14 percent of the Fresno area population does not have high-speed Internet at home.

Among the population Radio Bilingue serves – Spanish-speaking farmworkers – that number is even higher. A 2016 Field Poll on broadband adoption in California reported that 31 percent of Spanish-only speakers are unconnected.

The reasons for this digital divide are twofold. First, California’s rural areas lack the necessary infrastructure for high-speed internet. An April 2017 CPUC report found that 43 percent of rural households are unable to get reliable broadband.

This is particularly true in the Valley; inside Fresno, internet access is plentiful, but in smaller towns like Parlier, Reedley and Orange Cove, broadband is unreliable and wi-fi connections are spotty.

Second, many Valley residents cannot afford the cost of a computer plus the $50-$80 monthly Internet service fees on top of paying for a smartphone and cell phone service.

Some argue that having a smartphone is enough – but kids can’t write term papers on smartphones and adults can’t upload resumes from smartphones for job applications. Smartphones also have limitations for research, learning, and information sharing – which is why at Amazon fulfillment centers, workers use internet-connected tablets, laptops and desktops to do their jobs.

The fact is high-speed internet access is as important to 21st-century economic development as electricity was to 20th-century economic development. Take the example of Irma Olguin, a 37-year-old Latina who grew up in a family of field laborers in Caruthers and who now is CEO of one of Fresno’s leading tech enterprises, Bitwise. Olguin recently told The Bee:

“When you think how unlikely it is for a rural kid from a labor background to end up as the CEO of a technology company, you just don’t see that. It doesn’t need to be an accident. We can be a lot more deliberate about creating and providing opportunities to families who want their children to succeed, or at least exposing young people to a different vision for their lives.”

Olguin oversees operations for two Bitwise divisions: the Geekwise Academy tech education and training programs and Shift3 Technologies Shift3 Technologies, which matches up local businesses that need technology services with programmers and engineers to do the work. She is part of a statewide movement to improve digital access and literacy.

The opportunities provided by companies like Amazon and Bitwise are a key reason Radio Bilingue is supporting the Internet For All Now Act (AB 1665), a bipartisan Internet infrastructure and adoption bill that aims to get 98 percent of California territories and 90 percent of California citizens connected to the digital economy.

AB 1665 is a rare piece of legislation; it is co-authored by 23 Republican and Democrat Assemblymembers and on June 1 it passed the Assembly in a 67-5 vote. The bill would extend an already working program of the California Public Utilities Commission, which has funded – through a pennies-per-month phone bill surcharge – 58 high-speed Internet infrastructure projects that have connected hundreds of communities to the digital economy. It also would support getting low-income people connected to affordable internet offers from companies like AT&T and Comcast.

The Internet For All Now Act is an economic development no brainer for California. I want the Senate to pass it, so that Fresno can be known the world over not only for its agricultural production but also for the digital expansion of our economy.

Hugo Morales is executive director and co-founder of Radio Bilingüe Inc., the national Latino public radio network based in Fresno.

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Closing the Digital Divide in the Inland Empire

San Bernardino County Sun

Paul Granillo | June 14, 2017

June 1 was a good day in California. The Internet For All Now Act, a bipartisan bill that will close the digital divide in California, sailed through the state Assembly on a 67-5 vote — thanks to co-authorship from 23 Republicans and Democrats, including Inland Empire Assembly members Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella; Jay Obernolte, R-Hesperia; Eloise Gomez Reyes, D-San Bernardino; Jose Medina, R-Riverside; Sabrina Cervantes, D-Corona, and Freddie Rodriguez, D-Chino.

Bipartisan lawmaking is fairly rare in the Capitol. The reason is that the Internet For All Now Act (Assembly Bill 1665) is an economic development no-brainer. It extends an already working program with no new taxes that has funded 58 high-speed internet (“broadband”) infrastructure projects connecting over 100,000 households to the digital economy.

You might ask: Why is this necessary? The reason is California has an unacceptably large divide between those who have home high-speed internet and those who do not. The California Emerging Technology Fund reported in its August 2016 Field Poll that 30 percent of Californians do not have high-speed internet and a computing device at home and that 57 percent of low-income Californians are “under-connected” — either dependent only on a smartphone or completely offline. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a report in April 2017 documenting that 43 percent of rural households can’t get reliable broadband.

What this all means is that almost 12 million Californians are shut out from the digital economy. They cannot adequately apply for jobs, do homework, and get health and public services online.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently reported that colleges and universities now receive 94 percent of their applications online, up from 68 percent in 2007 and 49 percent in 2005. And the Pew Internet Research Center has shown that lower-income Americans continue to lag behind in technology adoption; the result, Pew reports, is that a technology gap between the rich and the poor is widening U.S. inequality.

This is of particular concern in the Inland Empire, where some cities and towns have inadequate or non-existent broadband infrastructure and where lower-income families struggle to keep up with the digital revolution. This was a huge motivation for Assembly members Garcia, Gomez Reyes and Medina to co-author AB1665, and it was a clear and compelling reason for Assembly members Obernolte, Cervantes and Rodriguez to come out in support of the bill. They know that individuals and businesses which don’t have high-speed internet are socioeconomically disadvantaged and those who have fast connections can compete in the 21st century.

The Internet For All Act is a $330 million, five-year bill that extends the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), which is the only source of support for broadband unless the Legislature enacts a new fee or tax or does a General Fund budget allocation. My organization, the Inland Empire Economic Partnership — along with more than 100 other governmental and nongovernmental organizations — support this bill because we understand the CASF will soon be out of funds, yet 360,000 households still need to get connected to reliable broadband. We also understand that internet service providers will not put broadband in areas with low return on investment. This bill incentivizes those companies to serve 98 percent of the households in the state.

So thank you, Inland Assembly members Garcia, Obernolte, Gomez Reyes, Medina, Cervantes and Rodriguez for authoring and supporting the Internet For All Now Act. We hope your colleagues in the Senate follow your lead in closing the digital divide to help boost our economy and strengthen our society.

Paul C. Granillo is president and CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership.

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Internet for All Act Has Money to Spend

Techwire

Kayla Nick-Kearney | June 8, 2017  

The Internet for All Now Act of 2017 has been approved with a price of $330 million by the Assembly and is moving to the Senate.

Assembly Bill 1665, which includes 23 bipartisan co-authors, extends broadband deployment to rural and low-income urban areas through the California Advanced Services Fund.

“Digital deserts,” or underserved communities, include Visalia, Tehama and Lassen, according to Sunne Wright McPeak, CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund. The California Advanced Services Fund will provide the money necessary to build out the network. The fund was rededicated in 2008 to broadband deployment.

“Before that, it was used for telephone subsidies, so it’s been collected for decades,” McPeak said.

As the telephone subsidy fund, $300 million was collected each year. In 2008, $315 million was assigned to the broadband effort.

“This is, again, the Legislature stepping up, continuing to address the digital divide, using an existing source that is a modest surcharge, a lot less than it used to be for telephone service, but giving us a tangible amount for leveraging private capital, leveraging other public dollars and other public resources,” said McPeak.

The money will be divided into three parts: $300 million will be spent on infrastructure, $10 million for resources and $20 million to get the “lowest of the low-income households online.”

“Having the technology is one thing,” McPeak said. “We actually need to use it, and then we become a lot more efficient in our economy.”

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Digital Deserts Push Life to Slow Lane

Capitol Weekly

Eduardo Gonzalez and Trish Kelly | June 7, 2017

For many years, those working in food systems have used the word desert  — a barren area of land where living conditions are hostile — to describe urban places that have no grocery stores. The term “food desert” has drawn crucial attention to health problems that occur where it’s a struggle to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

But the lack of access to fresh food is not the only geographic injustice in low-income neighborhoods and rural communities.

In California — and all across the country — there are “digital deserts,” places where it’s impossible to get high-speed Internet access at home and thus impossible to do homework, apply for jobs and be a full-fledged member of the digital economy.  These digital deserts also prevent farmers from using Internet technology to improve efficiencies in growing crops and getting them to markets.

Can there really be digital deserts in digital-dominant California?  Yes.  Although significant progress has been made in recent years, 16% of Californians remain completely off line, and 14% connect only through a smart phone.   Thus 30% of all California households are either unconnected or under-connected.

The reasons for this digital divide are twofold.  One is our high rate of poverty.  Four in 10 California residents are living near or in poverty, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.  This means millions cannot afford the cost of home Internet (averaging $50 per month) plus a computer.

The other reason for the digital divide is inadequate infrastructure. As an example, broadband infrastructure grades in rural areas of Yolo County —  not even 20 minutes from the Capitol of the 6th largest economy in the world – are ranked F.

The California Public Utilities Commission documented in an April 2017 report that 43% of Californians in rural areas have no reliable broadband.

The glaring fact is that California is suffering from digital deserts — from Crescent City, Redding and Tahoe City to the Delta, Stockton, Fresno and Calexico.

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Internet for All Now Act Could Bring Internet to Rural California

Government Technology

Rachel Rosenblum | June 5, 2017

The Assembly has passed a bill to help expand broadband internet infrastructure into rural communities in the North State.

Assembly Bill 1665, co-authored by local Assemblyman James Gallagher, will allocate $330 million and extend the California Advanced Services Fund for broadband deployment and adoption in rural and low-income urban areas that lack sufficient internet infrastructure, according to a press release from Gallagher’s office.

The bill, titled Internet for All Now Act of 2017, is headed to the Senate for further consideration.

“A lot of urban areas have been connected, but rural parts of California have been left behind,” Gallagher said in a phone interview Friday.

And the areas underserved or unserved reach expansively throughout his district, he said.

According to a map of Assembly District 3’s wireline service – provided by Gallagher’s office on behalf of the bill’s primary author, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella – most of Meridian is unserved; and areas of Colusa,

Yuba, Sutter, Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties are underserved or unserved.

“The digital divide is just not acceptable in the 21st century. Rural Californians deserve the same access and opportunity as those in urban areas,” Gallagher said in the press release. “AB 1665 will help improve public safety, economic competition, and educational opportunities in the North State and beyond.”

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Cerrandola Brecha Digital Latina

La Opinion

Cesar Zaldivar-Motts | May 21, 2017

Cesar_Zaldivar-Motts_La_Opinion.gif

Estos no son días bipartidistas. Nunca antes los demócratas y los republicanos habían estado tan en desacuerdo, tan en conflicto.
 
Pero California está viendo una excepción. El proyecto de ley de Internet para Todos Ahora, un proyecto bipartidista que cerrará la brecha digital en California, está abriéndose paso a través de la legislatura, gracias en gran parte a los funcionarios electos latinos, específicamente a los miembros de la Asamblea Miguel Santiago, Eduardo Gonzales, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Eloise Gómez Reyes y Blanca Rubio.
 
La razón por la que el proyecto de ley llamado Internet Para Todos Ahora (AB 1665) ha sido respaldado y en co-autoría bipartidista de un total de 22 demócratas y republicanos es que tiene sentido en el aspecto económico. Este extiende un programa ya existente de la Comisión de Suministros Públicos de California, que ha financiado--a través de una cuota de un centavo por mes en la factura de teléfono--58 proyectos de infraestructura de Internet de alta velocidad que han conectado cientos de comunidades a la economía digital.
 
Usted se preguntará: ¿Por qué es esto necesario? La razón es que California, y especialmente la comunidad latina de California, tiene una brecha inaceptablemente grande entre los que tienen Internet de alta velocidad en sus hogares y los que no. Una encuesta de agosto del 2016 revela que el 31% de los latinos de habla hispana no tienen Internet de alta velocidad y un dispositivo informático en su casa y que el 57% de los californianos de bajos ingresos están sólo conectados con teléfonos inteligentes o no están conectados. Además, la Comisión de Suministros Públicos de California emitió un informe en abril del 2017 que documenta que el 43% de los hogares rurales no pueden obtener banda ancha confiable.
 
Lo que esto significa es que casi 12 millones de californianos están excluidos de la economía digital. No pueden aplicar adecuadamente para trabajos, hacer tareas, u obtener servicios públicos en línea. El Centro de Investigación de Internet Pew recientemente reveló que los estadounidenses de bajos ingresos siguen relegados en la adopción de la tecnología; el resultado, según Pew, es que una brecha tecnológica entre ricos y pobres está ampliando la desigualdad de ingresos.
 
Estos datos negativos fueron una gran motivación para los asambleístas Miguel Santiago, Eduardo González, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Eloise Gómez Reyes y Blanca Rubio para la co-autoría de AB 1665. Ellos saben que los individuos y negocios que no tienen Internet de alta velocidad están socioeconómicamente en desventaja y los que tienen conexiones rápidas pueden competir en escuelas y por empleos, clientes y contratos.
 
Cesar Zaldivar-Motts es director ejecutivo de la Corporación de Desarrollo Comunitario del Sureste (Southeast Community Development Corporation) en Los Ángeles.

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English translation:

Closing the Latino Digital Divide

By Cesar Zaldivar-Motts

These are not bipartisan days. Never before have Democrats and Republicans been so at odds, so embattled.

But California is seeing an exception. The Internet For All Now Act, a bipartisan bill that will close California’s digital divide, is making its way through the Legislature—thanks in large part to Latino elected officials, specifically Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago, Eduardo Gonzales, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Eloise Gomez Reyes and Blanca Rubio.

The reason the Internet For All Now Act (AB 1665) has been co-authored and backed by a total of 22 Democrats and Republicans is that the bill makes economic sense. It extends an already working program of the California Public Utilities Company, which has funded--through a pennies-per-month phone bill surcharge--58 high-speed Internet infrastructure projects that have connected hundreds of communities to the digital economy.

You might ask: Why is this necessary? The reason is California, and especially California’s Latino community, has an unacceptably large divide between those who have home high-speed Internet and those who do not. An August 2016 Field Poll finds that 31% of Spanish-speaking Latinos do not have high-speed Internet and a computing device at home and that 57% of low-income Californians are “under-connected”—either dependent only on a smartphone or completely offline. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a report in April 2017 documenting that 43% or rural households can’t get reliable broadband.

What this all means is that almost 12 million Californians are shut out from the digital economy.  They cannot adequately apply for jobs, do homework, and get health and public services online. The Pew Internet Research Center recently found that lower income Americans continue to lag behind in technology adoption; the result, Pew reports, is that a technology gap between the rich and the poor is widening income inequality.

This negative data was a huge motivation for Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago, Eduardo Gonzales, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Eloise Gomez Reyes and Blanca Rubio to co-author AB 1665. They know that individuals and businesses that don’t have high-speed Internet are socioeconomically disadvantaged and those who have fast connections can compete in schools and for jobs, clients and contracts.

Cesar Zaldivar-Motts is executive director of Southeast Community Development Corporation in Los Angeles.


Closing the Digital Divide in the Imperial Valley

Imperial Valley Press

Timothy E. Kelley | May 18, 2017

April 26 was an unusual day in California. The Internet For All Now Act, a bipartisan bill that will close the Digital Divide in California, sailed through its first committee hearing with a 12-0 vote — thanks to Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia of the Imperial Valley.

Bill support from 22 Republicans and Democrats is fairly rare in the Capitol. The reason is that the Internet For All Now Act (AB 1665) makes economic sense. It extends an already working program that has funded 58 high-speed (broadband) Internet infrastructure projects connecting over 100,000 households to the digital economy.

You might ask: Why do we need this bill?

The reason is the Digital Divide in California is too large. The California Emerging Technology Fund reported in its August 2016 Field Poll that 30 percent of Californians do not have high-speed Internet and a computing device at home and that 57 percent of low-income Californians are “under-connected”— either dependent only on a smartphone or completely offline. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a report in April 2017 documenting that 43 percent or rural households can’t get reliable broadband.

What this all means is that almost 12 million Californians are shut out from the digital economy. They cannot adequately apply for jobs, do homework, and get health and public services online. The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently reported that colleges and universities now receive 94 percent of their applications online, up from 49 percent in 2005. And the Pew Internet Research Center has shown that lower income and rural Americans continue to lag behind in technology adoption; the result is that a technology gap between rich and poor and urban and rural is widening US inequality.

This is of particular concern in the Imperial Valley, where some cities and towns have inadequate or non-existent broadband infrastructure and where lower income families struggle to keep up with the digital technology revolution.

This was the main reason Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia authored AB 1665. In his district — which comprises Blythe, Brawley, Bermuda Dunes, Calexico, Calipatria, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, El Centro, Holtville, Imperial, Indio, Mecca, Oasis, North Shore, Salton Sea, Thermal, Thousand Palms, Westmorland, Seeley, Heber, Ocotillo, Heber and Winterhaven — 8 percent of the households can’t get high-speed Internet and 23 percent are low income. Assemblymember Garcia, who is from Coachella, knows firsthand that individuals and businesses which don’t have high-speed Internet are socioeconomically disadvantaged and those who have fast connections can compete in the 21st century.

The Internet For All Act is a $330 million, five-year bill that extends the California Advanced Services Fund, which is the only source of support for broadband unless the Legislature enacts a new fee or tax or does a General Fund budget allocation. My organization, the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation — along with more than 80 other governmental and nongovernmental organizations — support this bill because we understand the CASF will soon be out of funds, yet 360,000 households still need to get connected to reliable broadband. We also understand that Internet service providers will not put broadband in sparsely populated areas with low return on investment. This bill incentivizes those companies to serve 98 percent of the households in the state.

So thank you Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia for authoring and advocating for the Internet For All Now Act. Closing the Digital Divide will strengthen the economic fabric of our home, the Imperial Valley.

Timothy E. Kelley is president and CEO of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation.

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Assemblywoman Announces Broadband Deal for Rural Communities

Daily Democrat

Daily Democrat Staff | April 28, 2017

SACRAMENTO >> An agreement that could expand braodband access and digital literacy to communities deprived of reliable internet connections may have been achieved.

According to a statement from Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, AB 1665 has been passed out of the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee this week with a 12- 0 vote.

“This bill memorializes the successful negotiation of a $330 million package to expand broadband access and digital literacy to communities deprived of a reliable internet connection,” stated Aguiar-Curry who sponsored the legislation with Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, and Brian Dahle, R-Biebers.

Past efforts to increase funding to close the connectivity gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” known as the “Digital Divide,” were intensely opposed by the largest telecommunications companies. AB 1665 is the product of bipartisan legislative leadership. After a three-year stalemate, this bill represents a cooperative effort between legislators and representatives from the telecommunications industry to invest in broadband access and rural development.

“People don’t start businesses in areas where they can’t even send an email,” said Aguiar-Curry. “When I was the nayor of Winters, I watched families get their first email address. I saw farmworkers finally have a platform to talk to their kids’ teachers despite their work hours. I know first-hand how internet access can transform a community. AB 1665 will transform communities across California.”

The California Advanced Services Fund is a state program aimed at closing the Digital Divide. The CASF does not depend upon General Fund dollars, but instead is funded by a small surcharge on in-state phone bills spread out over a 5-year period.

The current goal of this program is to incentivize the expansion of broadband infrastructure to 98 percent of California households. However, Aguiar-Curry and her partners successfully negotiated to expand this goal to 98 percent of households in every geographic region of the state, assuring that rural California would be served as well, instead of the target being satisfied in urban areas alone.

Testifying in support of AB 1665, Assemblymember Dahle said, “Using this regional approach to provide internet to historically unserved and underserved communities, we will be able to help our schools, students, and small businesses, and effectively connect rural constituencies to the rest of the world. This bill will provide services to rural areas of the state that have long been forgotten, or seen as too difficult and remote to provide service.”

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Aguiar-Curry Strikes $330 Million Deal to Bring Broadband and Digital Literacy to Rural Communities

Lake County News | April 28, 2017

A bill to expand the reach of broadband services across rural California took a key step forward this week.

AB 1665, joint-authored by several bipartisan members of the Assembly including Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), passed out of the Assembly Communications and Conveyance Committee this week with a 12-0 vote.

This bill memorializes the successful negotiation of a $330 million package to expand broadband access and digital literacy to communities deprived of a reliable Internet connection.

Past efforts to increase funding to close the connectivity gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” known as the “Digital Divide,” were intensely opposed by the largest telecommunications companies.

AB 1665 is the product of bipartisan legislative leadership. After a three-year stalemate, this bill represents a cooperative effort between legislators and representatives from the telecommunications industry to invest in broadband access and rural development.

“People don’t start businesses in areas where they can’t even send an email,” said Aguiar-Curry, whose district includes Lake County. “When I was the mayor of Winters, I watched families get their first email address. I saw farmworkers finally have a platform to talk to their kids’ teachers despite their work hours. I know first-hand how Internet access can transform a community. AB 1665 will transform communities across California.”

The California Advanced Services Fund, or CASF, is a state program aimed at closing the Digital Divide.

The CASF does not depend upon general fund dollars, but instead is funded by a small surcharge on in-state phone bills spread out over a five-year period.

The current goal of this program is to incentivize the expansion of broadband infrastructure to 98% of California households.

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Charter Offers High-Speed Internet

Los Angeles Wave, April 14, 2017

BOYLE HEIGHTSIn an effort to bridge the digital divide, Charter Communications introduced a new stand-alone low-cost, high-speed broadband service, Spectrum Internet Assist at a special ceremony at Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School.

Spectrum Internet Assist offers eligible customers low-cost broadband speeds up to 30 megabytes per second, which meets and even exceeds the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of “high-speed.” Spectrum Internet Assist includes standard features like email boxes, internet security software and a modem at no additional charge.

Spectrum Internet Assist is now available throughout Charter’s legacy service area, and will continue to be rolled out market by market with a goal of covering the remaining Charter footprint by mid-year.

“We’re excited to bring a whole new world of digital access and opportunity to low income families and seniors,” said Tom Rutledge, Charter’s chairman and CEO. “Spectrum Internet Assist is an important next step in providing true high-speed connections to those who would otherwise continue to face a digital inequality in this country.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, chair of the Assembly’s new Communications and Conveyance Committee, joined Charter and other government representatives in an auditorium filled with students and parents April 7 at Stevenson to commemorate the introduction.

They were also joined by the California Emerging Technology Fund, School2Home and the Hollenbeck Youth Center of Boyle Heights.

“In my new role, I am 100 percent focused on what we as a state can do to bridge the digital divide and ensure that everyone has equal access to technology,” Santiago said. “I am proud to stand with Charter Communications as they launch their new Spectrum Internet Assist program in my district. I applaud their efforts toward helping California progress, and I can’t wait to see what these students and teachers are able to achieve with regular access to the most up-to-date information at their fingertips.”

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