SACRAMENTO, Calif. - State lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a new bill aimed at closing the digital divide in California, an equity issue that’s been repeatedly highlighted during the pandemic when internet access has been the critical link for California students forced to learn remotely.
State lawmakers on introduced the California Broadband for All Bond Act of 2022. If approved, the $10 billion general obligation bond measure would go before California voters in statewide general election ballot on Nov. 8, 2022.
The Broadband for All Bond Act of 2022 would ask state voters to approve a $10 billion bond that would "invest in broadband infrastructure throughout California and increase access to high-speed internet, prioritizing unserved and disadvantaged communities."
Assembly Bill (AB) 34 was authored by Assembly members Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). They promoted the bill as one that will not only support public education but also help California's economy by boosting access to telecommuting, telemedicine, and other critical services.
"California needs to go big and bold to close the digital divide and jumpstart the economic recovery," Assemblyman Muratsuchi said in a press release, adding, "This pandemic has highlighted enormous disparities in access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet, especially in rural and low-income urban communities."
AB 34 has the support of educators, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who said the legislation was a necessity for student success today and in the future. "If we truly want to level the playing field for California students, we cannot rest until internet flows like electricity," said Thurmond. "I believe AB 34 can be a game changer that will help us close the gaps in access that have denied countless students a fair shot at success for far too long."
Muratsuchi's office said that there was no known opposition to AB 34.
The bill is scheduled to have its first hearing and vote next month by the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance, which is chaired by bill co-author Santiago.
If approved by the full Assembly and then the State Senate, the bond act would be placed on next year’s statewide general election ballot on Nov. 8, 2022.