More than fifty California organizations, businesses, and public officials—including the AARP of California, the San Francisco Tech Council, the California Center for Rural Policy, the Khan Academy, and a number of California cities and counties—join Common Sense Kids Action and EFF in urging Governor Gavin Newsom to call the legislature back into a special session to address the state’s digital divide.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated California's longstanding broadband access crisis. Governor Newsom himself has identified this as a pressing issue, with a recent executive order to establish a state goal of 100 mbps download speeds for all Californians. More than 2 million Californians lack access to high-speed broadband today. As KQED recently reported, that includes some 1.2 million students across the state who lack adequate Internet access to do their work. In a nationwide survey from Common Sense on the “homework gap,” 12 percent of teachers say a majority of their students lack home access to the internet or a computer to do schoolwork at home, though 20 percent of K-2 students and 41 percent of high school students need broadband internet access outside of school at least once a week.
And that’s in a normal year. But this is not a normal year. Lack of access has become an emergency for students today as schooling becomes remote in response to the pandemic. Many students with no access at home have been cut off from school computer labs, libraries, or other places where they may usually get the access they need. This type of situation is exactly what led to the viral pictures of two Salinas students—who clearly wanted to learn—doing their school work on the sidewalk outside the local Taco Bell.
It doesn’t have to be like this. California, home to the world’s fifth-largest economy, has solutions available. In this past legislative session, Sen. Lena Gonzalez built broad support for a deal that would have secured more than 100 million dollars a year to secure access to high-speed Internet for families, first responders, and seniors across the state. EFF and Common Sense were proud to sponsor that bill, but despite support from the California Senate and the governor’s office, California Assembly leadership refused to hear the bill and stopped it at the last moment.
California families face these problems every day—regardless of whether their representatives are willing to help them or not. But the people of California need help, and the state should move forward now to begin the work needed to finally close the digital divide.
The following organizations have already joined the call, and we hope Governor Newsom will listen.
If your organization also believes that California cannot wait to start closing the digital divide, please reach out to Senior Legislative Counsel Ernesto Falcon or Legislative Activist Hayley Tsukayama to add your name to the list.
California Center for Rural Policy
Central Coast Broadband Consortium
City of Daly City
City of Farmersville
City Council Member, City of Gonzales
City of Greenfield
City of Watsonville
Common Sense Kids Action
Council Member, City of Gonzales
County of Monterey
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fight for the Future
Gigabit Libraries Network
Great School Choices
King City Mayor Pro tempore
Latino Community Foundation
Mayor, City of Huron
Mayor, City of Soledad
Modesto City Councilmember, District 2
Monterey County Supervisor, District 1
My Yute Soccer
National Cristina Foundation
National Digital Inclusion Alliance
National Hispanic Media Coalition
New America's Open Technology Institute
Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce
Open Door Community Health Centers
Peninsula Young Democrats
San Francisco Tech Council
School on Wheels
Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition
The Education Trust-West
The Greenlining Institute
Mayor, Town of Colma