SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) introduced Assembly Bill 14, known as the ‘Internet for All Act of 2021’. The Assemblymember has also reached agreement to work in partnership with Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) to revolutionize the State’s broadband deployment program under the California Advanced Services Program, and provide new and increased funding to bring California into the technological 21st Century.
The two Members, who individually advanced legislation elevating the discussion of the sorry state of internet connectivity in the State, have joined forces to bring forward the funding and reforms necessary to truly achieve Internet for All. The bills will build on the extension of the CASF program under AB 1665, signed into law in 2017 (joint authored by Assemblymembers Garcia, Aguiar-Curry, Holden, McCarty, Bonta, Gallagher, Low, Santiago, Wood, and then-Assemblymember, now Senator Brian Dahle).
The ongoing COVID pandemic has laid bare the massive gaps in internet connectivity at sufficient speeds for too many Californians. As more families have struggled to conduct distance learning, virtual work, access telehealth services and safeguard small business participation in the virtual marketplace, the need to connect the State at sufficient speeds with adaptable technology has reached crisis proportion.
AB 14 reflects Aguiar-Curry’s steadfast commitment to achieve our state’s digital connectivity goals, serving as a product of the knowledge gained through this year’s introduction of her own bill, AB 570 (Aguiar-Curry, the ‘Internet for All Act of 2020’) and the negotiations between both houses of the State Legislature and the Governor’s Administration through the 2020 legislative session.
“The heartbreaking reality is that 1 in 8 California homes still do not have internet access and communities of color face even higher numbers of students and families who remain disconnected,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry.
“Only miles from our State Capitol there are areas of our state where Californians have no access to broadband connectivity,” added Aguiar-Curry “California, the home of the Silicon Valley, cannot continue to sustain the 5th largest economy in the world with Third World technology. In partnership with Sen. Gonzalez and nearly two dozen of our Legislative colleagues, we have the momentum to get this effort across the finish line early next year.”
“As a proud principal coauthor of AB 14, I look forward to continue working with Assemblywoman Aguiar-Curry, the Newsom Administration and stakeholders to help fund broadband infrastructure and provide fast internet connectivity to more families across our state. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how critical it is that families have access to fast internet connectivity to meet the needs of daily life,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach). “The digital divide impacts low income, rural, and urban communities of color the most. That is a huge injustice and that is why we must address the digital divide with urgency, to make sure all Californians have the internet connectivity they need to learn, work and socialize online, especially as we continue to work through the challenges of this global pandemic.”
The ‘Internet for All Act of 2021’ prioritizes the deployment of broadband infrastructure in California’s most vulnerable and unserved rural and urban communities by extending the ongoing collection of funds deposited into the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to provide communities with grants necessary to bridge the digital divide. AB XXX provides a vital pathway to connect California’s workforce to gainful employment, harness the life-saving technology of telemedicine, democratize distance learning, enable precision agriculture, and sustain economic transactions in the 21st Century E-Marketplace.
The Act extends eligibility for grants administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to local and tribal governments, who are willing and able to quickly and efficiently connect households, community anchor institutions (including educational institutions, fairgrounds for emergency response, and healthcare facilities), small businesses, and employers. AB 14 offers a measured and meaningful approach to building a statewide fiber middle-mile network that will provide higher speeds and access to connectivity to all those who are unserved along the path of deployment.
Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry and Senator Gonzalez have worked collaboratively to construct a package that joins their efforts of last legislative year to secure the necessary funding, technological capability, and program reforms included in AB 14 through the legislative recess and are eager to get the job done for California families, communities, and statewide economic recovery, as soon as possible.
Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, and all of Yolo County except West Sacramento. Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry resides in Winters a block from her childhood home with her longtime partner, Larry Harris, and has two grown daughters and a stepson.
Senator Gonzalez represents the 33rd Senate District, which includes the city of Long Beach and portions of South East Los Angeles including the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, and South Gate. Senator Gonzalez lives in Long Beach with her partner Adam and three sons.