Reporting

CA Fwd and Summit partners urge California to adopt broadband action policy

November 22, 2019


(Photo: alistairmcintyre / Pixabay)

Closing the “Digital Divide” and ensuring affordable, high-speed broadband access to all Californians has been a critical component of the California Economic Summit’s ongoing efforts in creating a more equitable, safe, and prosperous state. In the Regions Rise Together meetings that California Forward hosted with the Newsom Administration this year, it was the most frequently cited issue across all geographies as being the key to unlocking growth in the state’s regions.

To provide a framework for addressing this challenge, Summit partners and broadband stakeholders worked collectively in the months leading up to this year’s California Economic Summit to formulate a new recommendation statement urging Governor Gavin Newsom to develop a Statewide Broadband Action Policy to drive broadband deployment in all corners of the state. The recommendation statement was refined during and after the Summit in Fresno Nov. 7 and 8 and delivered to the Governor and his staff today. It has been endorsed by a broad array of voices.

The policy recommendation to the Governor comes on the heels of Newsom’s inspiring address Nov. 8 at the Summit, where he discussed initiatives to strengthen economic growth and inclusion across California. During the Summit, Lenny Mendonca, the Governor’s Chief Economic and Business Advisor and Director of the Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), announced the Administration would embark on a “Broadband for All” plan for the state to advance digital equity. The Administration intends to convene stakeholders, the private sector, educational institutions and government agencies in building the new plan.

These efforts of the Summit and the Administration take fresh aim at a key concern that has been articulated throughout the state, including at recent convenings of the Governor’s Regions Rise Together initiative, led by GO-Biz and the Office of Planning and Research in partnership with CA Fwd and the California Stewardship Network

“Time and again, broadband inequities arose during the Regions Rise Together meetings,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of CA Fwd. “The disparities and challenges touch all parts of our state, urban and rural, residential and business, civic and institutional. We welcomed the Administration’s Broadband for All announcement at the Summit and look forward to engaging on this important work in the days ahead.”

Among other elements, the Summit’s new recommendation statement urges the establishment of a clear directive to all state agencies, emanating directly from the Office of the Governor, to prioritize the build-out of high-speed broadband infrastructure across all regions, regardless of geography and demographics.

As the statement notes, such a visible directive from the state’s Chief Executive holds great potential to inspire solutions and fresh approaches and to generate meaningful cross-sector collaboration, innovation, and investments. Rather than being highly prescriptive, the document lays out the basic principles that should anchor a Statewide Broadband Action Policy, including the need for urgency, providing for practical mechanisms to empower state agencies to reduce obstacles and enable swift and widespread deployment, and committing to aggregating adequate resources to meet deployment goals.

Although the state has made progress in expanding deployment and access to broadband, many areas of California continue to be unserved or underserved. As the recommendation statement notes, one in eight homes in California still lacks access to high-speed broadband through a computing device or smartphone. The burden of this disparity falls disproportionately on poor neighborhoods and rural communities. The outcomes can be dire, including undermining public safety, educational opportunities, personal health and economic development.

If you or your organization would like to join in endorsing the recommendation statement, please indicate your interest by emailing your name, title, affiliation and logo to Jennifer Lovett at jennifer@cafwd.org