CETF - On a mission to close the Digital Divide - Page 18

THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Getting Connected : A Broadband Deployment and Adoption Resource Guide for Local and Regional Government Leaders
The California Emerging Technology Fund is partnering with Valley Vision on behalf of the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium to update “ Getting Connected : A Broadband Deployment and Adoption Resource Guide for Local and Regional Government Leaders .”
This resource guide was first developed a decade ago in partnership with the Orange County Business Council Center for a New Orange County and technical expertise from the California State Association of Counties , League of California Cities , Rural County Representatives of California , Local Government Commission , California Association of Council of Governments , Governor ’ s Office of Planning and Research , California Department of Transportation and California Transportation Commission .
This timely update provides detailed practices and innovative policies from across the state and country to help communities develop and increase broadband investments and partnerships to ensure all Californians have access to high-speed Internet .
It includes information about the Governor ’ s Executive Order to pursue Broadband For All , an initiative aimed at implementing the State Broadband Action Plan . The plan incorporates a state goal of 100 Mbps ( megabits per second ) download speeds for all Californians and directs proactive state actions to address five core roadblocks : availability ( speed and reliability ), affordability , access to devices , digital skills and data .
“ The value of state leadership came into sharper focus as the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place orders laid bare the Digital Divide — actually revealing a ‘ Digital Cliff ’ as more and more Californians fell off into deeper poverty and greater isolation ,” says CETF President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak .
The guide is a starting point for local and regional government leaders who are looking to advance access , deployment and adoption of broadband through their many leadership roles . It includes an overview of select broadband policies and ordinances across the state for potential replication or adaptation ; case studies for broadband deployment and adoption , including for 5G investments ; and a list of additional resources from national and state broadband agencies and organizations . While the focus is primarily on cities and counties , there are some examples of additional approaches being used by joint powers agencies and councils of government .
Download the Resource Guide at https :// www . cetfund . org ./ report / getting-connected-a-broadbanddeployment-and-adoption-resource-guide
Yet , the report notes , while a record percentage of California households are connected to the internet in 2021 , 15 % of California households ( nearly 2 million ) remain digitally disadvantaged : 9.6 % are unconnected ( about 1.25 million households ) and 5.6 % are underconnected ( about 730,000 households ). The research finds that the Digital Divide remains especially challenging for a significant number of low-income and Latino households , seniors and people with disabilities . This disadvantage has only grown more acute since the pandemic with so many activities having gone digital , including education , work , healthcare and access to government services .
“ This survey seeks to inform policies that will connect all Californians to fast , reliable and affordable broadband ,” says principal researcher Galperin . “ We have a unique window of opportunity to reach the goal of full broadband adoption .”
What Is the Call to Action ?
According to the survey , affordability ( the cost of service and device ) is the main barrier that keeps these households from connecting to the internet , followed by a lack of an appropriate computing device and digital literacy skills . Additionally , the internet infrastructure must be present and robust enough to support activities such as distance learning and telehealth .
Armed with this information , CETF is continuing its legislative advocacy — 17 broadband bills were introduced in the state legislature in 2021 — as well as bringing internet service providers , educators , healthcare providers , employers and other decision-makers to the table to work together to close the Digital Divide .
“ Going digital is a way of life , so we are encouraged to see that overall internet adoption is increasing ,” says McPeak . “ Still , far too many Californians are up against a Wall of Poverty . From our work in education and telehealth , CETF knows home internet is a catalyst for expanding opportunity for all Californians . It ’ s time for leadership from the highest levels of government and business to crush the Wall of Poverty .”
Read the full results of the 2021 State Survey on Broadband Adoption at https :// www . cetfund . org / actionand-results / statewide-surveys / 2021-2 /
Jessica Laskey is the Special Sections Editor . More at jessicalaskey . com .
78 comstocksmag . com | June 2021