The California Broadband Council has delivered its roadmap for the future of broadband and digital inclusion in response to Governor Newsom’s August 14 Executive Order, N073-20. The Order requests a comprehensive and multi-agency effort towards narrowing the digital divide to insure robust broadband is accessible and affordable for all Californians.
So much of daily life is served through online portals and processes; from learning online, accessing vital services and information, or the state’s own workforce advancing the business of government, broadband and internet access create the connective thread tying together economic and workforce development, public safety, education, and an engaged citizenry. Broadband is the engine that drives California’s advancement and success in industries from higher education to manufacturing, agriculture, and the service sector. Access to broadband, as essential to modern life, has been brought into focus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delivering broadband to a state as large and diverse as California is complicated. The California Public Utility Commission’s data shows areas where broadband is unavailable and underserved because of geography and affordability. Those areas where residents lack the opportunity to adopt broadband demonstrates the inequality many face to improve their lives and the lives of their families. While California has made significant progress toward digital equity, the evolving complexity and scope of the broadband challenge means there is still much work to do.
The Council solicited extensive engagement and input from state and local agencies, state legislative leaders, tribal nations, broadband industry leaders, nonprofits, and members of the public in development of the plan. In addition to research on national best practices, they solicited written comments and listened to ideas and concerns raised by many of the 150 organizations and more than 600 attendees that participated in listening sessions, online events, and meetings over the 4-month period devoted to the plan’s development.
Overall goals of the plan will see that all Californians have high-performance broadband available at home, schools, libraries, and businesses. All Californians have access to affordable broadband and the devices necessary to access the internet. Californians can access training and support to enable digital inclusion.
The Plan is punctuated with tangible and measurable results, and will be updated on an annual basis through 2025 in partnership with key state, local and Tribal government agencies; internet service providers; nonprofits; and other broadband stakeholders. Lead agencies or organizations will regularly report on their ongoing progress, and the Council will convene quarterly meetings to discuss and determine next steps. The plan was approved by unanimous vote at the December 17 CBC Special Meeting, and was submitted to the Governor’s office on December 31, 2020.