SACRAMENTO — Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, introduced Assembly Bill 14, known as the “Internet for All Act of 2021.” Aguiar-Curry also has agreed to work with state Senator Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, to revolutionize the state’s broadband deployment program under the California Advanced Services Program, and provide new and increased funding to bring California into the technological 21st century.
The bills will build on the extension of the CASF program under AB 1665, signed into law in 2017 (joint authored by Assembly members Garcia, Aguiar-Curry, Holden, McCarty, Bonta, Gallagher, Low, Santiago, Wood and former Assemblyman, now state Sen. Brian Dahle).
“The ongoing COVID pandemic has laid bare the massive gaps in internet connectivity at sufficient speeds for too many Californians,” a news release said. “As more families have struggled to conduct distance learning, virtual work, access telehealth services and safeguard small business participation in the virtual marketplace, the need to connect the State at sufficient speeds with adaptable technology has reached crisis proportion.”
The legislation prioritizes the deployment of broadband infrastructure in California’s most vulnerable and unserved rural and urban communities by extending the ongoing collection of funds deposited into the California Advanced Services Fund tto provide communities with grants necessary to bridge the digital divide. AB 14 provides a vital pathway to connect California’s workforce to gainful employment, harness the life-saving technology of telemedicine, democratize distance learning, enable precision agriculture, and sustain economic transactions in the 21st Century E-Marketplace.
“The heartbreaking reality is that 1 in 8 California homes still do not have internet access and communities of color face even higher numbers of students and families who remain disconnected,” Aguiar-Curry said.
“Only miles from our State Capitol there are areas of our state where Californians have no access to broadband connectivity,” added Aguiar-Curry. “California, the home of the Silicon Valley, cannot continue to sustain the fifth-largest economy in the world with Third World technology. In partnership with Sen. Gonzalez and nearly two dozen of our Legislative colleagues, we have the momentum to get this effort across the finish line early next year.”
The Act extends eligibility for grants administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to local and tribal governments, who are willing and able to quickly and efficiently connect households, community anchor institutions (including educational institutions, fairgrounds for emergency response, and healthcare facilities), small businesses, and employers. AB 14 offers a measured and meaningful approach to building a statewide fiber middle-mile network that will provide higher speeds and access to connectivity to all those who are unserved along the path of deployment.
Aguiar-Curry and Gonzalez have worked collaboratively to construct a package that joins their efforts of last legislative year to secure the necessary funding, technological capability, and program reforms included in AB 14 through the legislative recess and are eager to get the job done for California families, communities, and statewide economic recovery, as soon as possible.
— Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, and all of Yolo County except West Sacramento. She lives in Winters, a block from her childhood home with her longtime partner, Larry Harris, and has two grown daughters and a stepson.