The ‘two Californias’

Assemblyman
Devon Mathis
California 23rd Dist.

When I’m home chatting with my Central Valley constituents, I hear over and over that there are two Californias. The one most people think of is along the coast, with wealthy residents and the latest high-speed internet.

The forgotten California is where my constituents and I live. A place where people struggle with a lagging economy, rising living costs and outdated technology.

Last year, the Legislature finally took action to help. It passed a bill to bridge the digital divide and brings rural Californians access to the technology they need to thrive.

Most California households, about 95 percent, have access to broadband internet. But in rural areas, it’s a different story. Outside the city, kids have to stay late at school to do homework on a decent internet connection. Business owners work from coffee shops because they can’t get broadband at their home or office. Those stories are far too common and simply unacceptable in a state that claims to be the high-tech capitol of the world.

Fortunately, there’s help on the way. The Internet for All Now Act (AB 1665), which I was proud to co-author, commits our state to bringing high-speed internet to at least 98 percent of households every region in California.

One of the biggest challenges to bringing high-speed internet to underserved areas has been the cost of putting the infrastructure in place. Many internet companies just can’t pay to install pricey equipment that serves a relatively small number of people. The Internet for All Now Act will help by dedicating millions of dollars in grants for infrastructure that connects homes to high-speed internet networks.

The act makes a point to spend that money wisely. It rewards companies for expanding in areas with little or no broadband access, so that service goes to the people who need it most. It also invests in internet training and outreach, enabling newly-connected Californians to make the most of their broadband.

The impact of expanding high-speed internet service to rural areas will go far beyond just faster web browsing. It will boost struggling small businesses by allowing them to connect with ecommerce opportunities and compete in a digital economy. Students will thrive when they take advantage of the latest online education tools. And people will save money and be healthier as they access tele-health resources instead of driving long distances to visit their doctor in person.

All Californians deserve access to quality internet, no matter where they live. When California passed the Internet for All Now Act, it took a bold step to close the digital divide.

Now the entire state will be able to grow and benefit from the technology that currently only the cities enjoy.