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SAN JOSE, CA – In a press conference on 6/15/2021, leadership and stakeholders from public agencies throughout California, discussed ‘The Broadband for All’ initiative proposed by Governor Newsom, which would fast-track seven billion dollars to be used immediately towards building infrastructure that provides communities, regardless of income, with access to the internet. The leaders urged legislators to approve Governor Newsom’s detailed plan, which prioritizes federal relief money that needs to be spent immediately to fund a statewide, open-access “Middle Mile” fiber broadband network; greatly expanding internet service to under-and unserved homes and businesses.
More than 2 million Californians are currently without internet access. The global pandemic surfaced the long-standing problems of inequitable internet and wifi access, dramatically limiting the ability for youth to attend or participate fully in class, parents to work from home, and access to telehealth options for many families.
Limited or no access to the internet is also a major barrier to ensuring equitable systems.
A remarkable 1 in 4 households lack access to broadband, of which are largely low-income, or students and families of color. This reality was emphasized in a recent study about digital equity in Santa Clara that found that the greatest gaps in connectivity were in urban areas and were related to affordability and speed. The 7 billion dollar relief funding would be used to specifically develop and improve broadband equity for underserved communities.
“Low speeds, data caps, and limits on through-put prevent students from participating in instruction, accessing health and mental health services, pursuing enrichment courses, applying for financial aid, scholarships, jobs and college; and connecting with community resources such as meals and counseling,” said Santa Clara County Superintendent, Dr. Mary Ann Dewan.
“Many thousands of students do not have adequate internet access and thousands more have unreliable, unstable and unaffordable internet. Connectivity is needed at school, at home and in the community. It is as essential to the health, wellbeing, and education of our youth as electricity,” continued Dr. Dewan.
During the pandemic, inadequate internet speeds made it difficult for students to access synchronous instruction and activities. And, students from low-income families struggled to secure affordable, adequate internet.
“Low-income families struggle to secure and maintain affordable, adequate internet. A mid-tier internet package can easily cost 10% of a low-income family’s total take home pay,” said Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mary Ann Dewan. “The greatest gaps in connectivity are related to affordability and speed. Inadequate internet speeds, unstable and unreliable connectivity make it difficult – and for some - impossible to participate in essential activities.”
The Governor's proposal would make it easier for local government agencies to apply for state broadband infrastructure funding and significantly increase the minimum internet speed for state-funded projects. The proposal would also establish a fair and equitable local rate structure for broadband services, ensure that subsidies for low-income families are adequate, and require internet service providers to meet higher quality standards and speeds.
About the Santa Clara County Office of Education
Working collaboratively with school and community partners, the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) is a regional service agency that provides instructional, business, and technology services to the 31 school districts of Santa Clara County. The County Office of Education directly serves students through special education programs, alternative schools, Head Start and State Preschool programs, migrant education, and Opportunity Youth Academy. The SCCOE also provides academic and fiscal oversight and monitoring to districts in addition to the 22 Santa Clara County Board of Education authorized charter schools.