On Friday, July 2, 2021, Next Century Cities submitted comments with the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) elevating the importance of using local digital equity strategies to address historic and ongoing discriminatory practices. The CPUC sought comment on three studies which highlight disparate broadband access and adoption for California residents living in digitally redlined areas.
Statewide studies reveal disparities.
Internet access and adoption gaps in California disproportionately impact historically marginalized residents. The California Emerging Technology Fund collects annual data on broadband adoption statewide. Data released in April 2021 found that while over 90% of California households have smartphone or computer Internet connectivity at home, households earning less than $20,000 (70%), adults over 65 (77%), those who did not have a high school diploma (63%), Spanish-speaking Latinx residents (75%), and adults with disabilities (83%) lag far behind.
The social impact is relentless and pervasive.
Across the state, several local governments have begun collecting data about broadband disparities in their communities, which help leaders better develop more equitable and inclusive policies designed to connect residents. The pandemic exposed the multitude of paths that a home broadband connection creates for economic growth, educational advancement, healthcare treatment, and so much more. Without reliable, high-quality home broadband connections and the digital tools needed to take full advantage of online services, existing disparities will only continue to grow as technology advances.
Community solutions address long-standing inequities.
California communities are developing innovative local solutions designed to fill broadband access and adoption gaps. Cities like Inglewood, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have connected affordable housing complexes with broadband, while Oakland and San Rafael have used WiFi networks to ensure that people who need Internet access have a reliable connection point. Local solutions are a critical component of strategies to ensure that every Californian has reliable broadband access.
Read NCC’s filing here.