Torrance, CA – Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) held a virtual press conference today announcing the California Broadband for All Bond Act of 2022, a $10 billion general obligation bond measure to help close the digital divide throughout California. Speakers in support of AB 34 included State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, California School Board Association President-elect Dr. Susan Heredia, California State Association of Counties representative and Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo.
Assembly Bill (AB) 34 will invest in broadband infrastructure throughout California and increase access to high-speed internet, prioritizing unserved and disadvantaged communities to help close the digital divide. The bill will help jumpstart the state's economic recovery and support public education, telecommuting, telehealth and telemedicine, emergency response and preparedness, and other vital services. AB 34 will be heard and voted on in the Assembly Committee on Communications and Conveyance, chaired by AB 34 joint author Assemblymember Santiago, in April 2021.
"California needs to go big and bold to close the digital divide and jumpstart the economic recovery," Assemblymember Muratsuchi stated. "This pandemic has highlighted enormous disparities in access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet, especially in rural and low-income urban communities. As the ‘Innovation State', California should lead by significantly increasing its investment in public broadband infrastructure -- the Infrastructure of the 21st Century -- to provide affordable and reliable access to the internet for all Californians."
"Too many California communities remain trapped on the wrong side of the digital divide. We are stepping up with a comprehensive package of policy solutions to ensure high-speed, reliable, and affordable internet for all. These internet solutions must be matched with big, equitable investments to address the diverse disparities in our rural and urban unserved areas. The success of AB 34 is pivotal to support our state's immediate internet access and long-term broadband infrastructure needs without leaving anyone behind," said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.
"High speed internet access is not just something students need to learn remotely – it is a necessity for success for the rest of their lives. If we truly want to level the playing field for California students, we cannot rest until internet flows like electricity," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony 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."
"Addressing the digital divide is a moral imperative in California. It was heartbreaking to see our students huddled at fast food restaurants or coffee shops during this pandemic because they are the only places they can access the Internet. It's time for California to place a broadband infrastructure bond on the ballot to bridge the digital divide once and for all in our state," said Luis Alejo, California State Association of Counties representative and Monterey County Supervisor.
Improving broadband access will improve the lives of Californians by enabling individuals to work, study, communicate, apply for government services, operate home-based businesses, receive emergency information, and access healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic led to many employees working from home, while students began to rely heavily on "distance learning". While this was attainable for some students, others, including many students of color and children experiencing poverty, lack the access to high-speed internet and technology. Broadband ensures California's ability to compete on the world stage and spur economic development to rebuild our economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi represents California's 66th Assembly District, which includes El Camino Village, Gardena, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Torrance, and West Carson. Muratsuchi is the Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies and the Assembly Select Committee on Aerospace. He is a member of the Assembly Committees on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials; Natural Resources; Utilities and Energy; Veterans Affairs; and Water, Parks and Wildlife.
Media Contact: Kerry Jacob, 310-806-0893