After decades of advocacy and a pandemic year that forced schools to shift to online instruction, California is preparing to make its largest investment in expanding public broadband access to date.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers announced their plans for how to spend the $6 billion that California is allocating for broadband in the 2021-22 budget on Monday. The plans are detailed in AB 156, known as the broadband trailer bill, legislation that outlines in detail how the internet investment should be spent. The state Senate passed the bill unanimously on Thursday, and it now awaits Newsom’s signature.
“The pandemic more than demonstrated the necessity for every Californian to have reliable access in order to function in today’s world,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, during a legislative hearing on Thursday. “We already knew we are dependent on the internet for applying to jobs and college, but during the pandemic, we relied on it for our education.”
Although more than 90% of Californians have high-speed internet, hundreds of thousands of students are estimated to still be without reliable internet access at home, according to a recent study from the University of California and the California Emerging Technology Fund, a statewide nonprofit that works to accelerate the deployment and adoption of broadband.