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.”