CSAC Bulletin Article

Research Confirms California’s Digital Divide Is No Joke- CSAC Coalition Urges $8 Billion Budget Investment

April 1, 2021

According to the latest University of Southern California and California Emerging Technology Fund survey of connectedness, 15 percent of CA households are caught in a digital divide. Nine percent of households have no broadband at all, while another six percent rely solely on smartphones for connectivity. With the digital divide has closed some since the last survey, a CSAC-led coalition of education, health, local government, and economic policy organizations are calling on Governor Newsom to make an immediate, one-time investment of $8 billion for broadband infrastructure and programs to connect California and close the digital divide.

The biennial Statewide Survey on Broadband Adoption monitors Californians’ digital access and found that broadband access correlates sharply with income and there are broad disparities among geographical, racial, and ability groups. More than one in four low-income Californians are either unconnected (16 percent) or depend on smartphones (10 percent). Perhaps one of the most striking findings of the survey is that the digital divide is equally an issue in urban and rural communities. One-in-five households in Los Angeles County have no connection or rely on smartphones, about the same rate as in the Central Valley. 

“Access to reliable internet is as essential to modern life as electricity or indoor plumbing,” said CSAC First Vice President and Siskiyou County Supervisor Ed Valenzuela in the coalition news release. “Statewide investment in broadband is long overdue and will ensure equitable access to public health, public safety, education, entrepreneurship, and economic opportunities regardless of geography or population.”

The funding request complements, rather than competes with, several important bills currently pending in the Legislature. AB 14 and SB 4 would make important reforms to the CPUC’s broadband infrastructure subsidy program and authorize a $1 billion revenue bond. Additionally, AB 34 would place a broadband bond on the November 2022 ballot.

CSAC has developed a broadband budget ask toolkit with talking points, videos, graphics, and additional resources that Counties and coalition partners can use to promote this important budget ask. To access toolkit materials, please contact CSAC Communication Manager Sara Floor.

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