Fiber optic cable conduit (Photo: Bill Smith/Flickr)
California has long struggled with a stubborn “digital divide,” with far too many residents, businesses and communities facing inadequate or absent broadband services. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recession have only exacerbated the problem.
In response to this digital crisis, the California Economic Summit is reissuing its recommendation, developed during the 2019 California Economic Summit, that the state develop a Statewide Broadband Action Policy to help drive broadband deployment and access throughout California.
Last year, during a series of Regions Rise Together meetings, broadband was the most frequently cited issue – across all locations – as being key to unlocking growth in the state’s diverse regions. These convenings were led by key entities within Governor Newsom’s Administration – the Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and the Office of Planning and Research – in partnership with CA Fwd and the California Stewardship Network.
During the 2019 California Economic Summit in Fresno, broadband took center stage when the Newsom Administration announced its “Broadband for All” initiative.
Subsequently, the Summit’s Work Group submitted a recommendation statement to the Administration urging formulation of a statewide directive to all state agencies to prioritize the build-out of high-speed broadband infrastructure and access across all regions, regardless of geography and demographics. Such a visible directive from the state’s Chief Executive was viewed as holding great potential to inspire solutions and fresh approaches, and to generate meaningful cross-sector collaboration, innovation and investments. More than 50 stakeholders endorsed this call.
Since then, the pandemic struck, slowing these efforts while simultaneously bringing the need for ubiquitous broadband into sharp relief. The lack of available, affordable, reliable broadband has had widespread harmful impacts for students and teachers suddenly thrust into distance learning, businesses shifting to online solutions, patients in need of tele-health and tele-medicine services, workers struggling to meet job requirements at home, and employees who have lost their jobs and need to find new ones.
Many significant efforts are under way across the state in public, private and nonprofit sectors to address the inequities and hardships that result when citizens and communities do not have adequate broadband. (See, for example, this initiative in Kings County.)
In light of these urgent needs, the Summit has developed the renewed recommendation statement that continues to urge development of a Statewide Broadband Action Policy. Many have already endorsed this effort. If you would like to add your voice of support to this living document, please contact CA Fwd Senior Project Manager Jennifer Lovett at firstname.lastname@example.org.