With Mayor Bryan Osorio

 

NCC: Could you start out by telling us a little bit about Delano, California?

City of Delano: Delano is located in Kern County, which is within the South San Joaquin Valley. For those who have never heard of it, I won’t blame you because the population is a little over 53,000. It’s known for being the center of the labor rights movement of the 1960s and going into the 1970s led by Caesar Chavez and Philip Vera Cruz.

I would say when we look at the US Census data, Delano has a high poverty rate of 20%. At the beginning of the year, they were given a report that had an unemployment rate of 22%. With the pandemic, we’re assuming that that’s gone higher. When you look at the Census, it tells you that around 40% of our community are immigrants. That’s what is special about the Central Valley and Delano. There is a large undocumented population as well. And this is where the demographics are intertwined with a high poverty rate, high unemployment rates, and an undocumented population.

What specific connectivity challenges is your community facing?

We are considered an agricultural city where a lot of our community residents work in agriculture. Those who are most marginalized, I believe, are farm workers. Very low wages, in turn, affects their children and their children’s access to technology. In the pandemic we’re realizing that, for some of these students, this is the first time they can take technology home because it’s necessary for their classes. As a result, I’ve received messages about free broadband to the city level, but it’s expensive.

While these students do have hotspots given to them by the schools, sometimes it’s not very reliable. Even with access to technology, sometimes there aren’t people who are willing or able to teach the students how to use it. This is important because when parents lack  education or are inexperienced with technology, they face barriers to teaching their children. Many families also face a language barrier. Those are just some of the issues that make technology access and adoption difficult. 

What work are you all doing to close the digital divide?

I want to see how we can do more outreach to the community to support internet adoption and setting a foundation for technology goals. Currently we have a technology center that gives residents access to computers. Of course, it’s been closed down for a while. Hopefully, we can expand facilities with internet access and provide internet services for students, post-pandemic, when they no longer have hotspots. But that has to be determined with all the other costs of COVID. 

What problems do you all want to address going forward?

As we move post-pandemic, some of these observations about high cost and low quality internet will keep coming to light. I imagine a large portion of the population would go with the lower cost broadband options if they knew about them. For me, I would advocate for better quality broadband access. The current systems are not fair, especially for larger households. I know we have a large Latino and Filipino population. Sometimes they’re intergenerational households. When the lower packages account for less family numbers, it’s a bit disproportionate in how much access they have to high quality broadband. Low tier offerings do not meet data needs, as we are telling people to connect family via Zoom and Facetime, are the one last concern we have to address going forward.