Closing the Digital Divide: A Thanksgiving Reflection and Call to Action

As families across California gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude and connection, it is timely to reflect on a significant achievement in our state’s history with the passage of AB 414, the Digital Equity Bill of Rights.  To our lawmakers and Governor Newsom who signed this legislation into law, thank you!  This milestone, a beacon of progress and hope, brings us closer to closing the persistent Digital Divide in our beloved California.

This Thanksgiving, as we cherish togetherness and being connected to one another during the holidays, let us remember the thousands of Californians who remain digitally-disconnected.  The data reveals a stark reality:  2.4 million people and 800,000 households are digitally- disadvantaged—18.8% of low-income residents, 15.5% of Latino families, and 18.6% of non-English speaking households face significant challenges in accessing high-speed Internet and digital literacy​.

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), in collaboration with the Digital Equity Coalition, has been at the forefront of advocating for Digital Equity for 15 years. We applaud the California Department of Technology and California Broadband Council for advancing policy and programs to ensure high-speed Internet infrastructure throughout the state and to get all residents connected to the Internet.  We commend California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for enhancing the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), which remains a critical resource for deploying broadband infrastructure to the most-needy, including rural, tribal, and high-poverty urban neighborhoods.

However, our work is far from over. The overwhelming demand for investments—evidenced by the massive over-subscription in grant applications to CASF—underscores the urgent need to collect and expend the full $150 million annually as authorized by the Legislature and the Governor. This funding is essential for ensuring high-speed internet access across all communities and for bolstering digital literacy, a fundamental 21st Century skill.

This Thanksgiving, let us channel our gratitude into action. As we break bread and share stories, let us also commit to a future where every Californian, regardless of income or geography, can access the digital world. This is not just about connectivity; it’s about empowering individuals and communities for a better future, fostering educational and economic opportunities, and building a more equitable society.

CETF, along with our partners, pledges to double down on efforts to close the Digital Divide. We call upon all stakeholders—government, industry, and community organizations—to join us in this vital mission. It is time to harness the full power of CASF and secure California’s fair share of the federal Affordable Connectivity Program to get everyone line, which would bring more than $1.2B into local economies as well as assist low-income households with their monthly Internet bill.

As we enjoy the warmth of family and friends this holiday season, let us not forget the importance of Digital Inclusion.  By working collectively with a common goal and shared purpose, we can ensure that by next Thanksgiving, more Californians will be able to connect digitally, share in our collective stories, and access the vast opportunities that the digital world offers.

In gratitude and hope,

Sunne Wright McPeak
President and CEO
California Emerging Technology Fund