By Sydney Johnson
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California’s historic $6 billion broadband bill into law on Tuesday, securing a future for one of the country’s largest investments into internet infrastructure.
“As we work to build California back stronger than before, the state is committed to addressing the challenges laid bare by the pandemic, including the digital divide holding back too many communities in a state renowned for its pioneering technology and innovation economy,” Newsom said on Tuesday from Traver Joint Elementary in Tulare County, where many rural districts struggled to connect students to the internet during distance learning.
Like many schools serving low-income students this past year, Traver Joint Elementary distributed Wi-Fi hotspots so students could access distance learning programs during the pandemic. But even hotspots could be a weak solution in areas that don’t receive strong cell service or in households where multiple people are using the service.
The broadband package includes the following:
• $3.25 billion to build, operate and maintain an open access, state-owned middle mile network;
• $2 billion to set up last-mile broadband connections that will connect homes and businesses with local networks;
• $750 million for a loan loss reserve fund so local governments and nonprofits can secure financing for broadband;
• Creation of a broadband czar position at the California Department of Technology.
“This $6 billion investment will make broadband more accessible than ever before, expanding opportunity across the spectrum for students, families and businesses — from enhanced educational supports to job opportunities to health care and other essential services,” Newsom said.
EdSource is a nonprofit newsroom that reports on state and local education issues.
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