Press Release

Five Community Foundations from Across California Urge Immediate Action on Governor’s Broadband Infrastructure Proposal

Press Release | June 10, 2021

Los Angeles, CA — The California Community Foundation along with four other California based Community Foundations urged California legislative leaders in a letter this week to support and adopt Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed $7 billion investment in digital equity. The COVID-19 pandemic this past year made it undeniable that access to the internet is a civil rights issue.

“Recovering from the pandemic and building a stronger, more just, and more equitable California will require further investments in bold, innovative, and transformative change. Digital equity – ensuring universal access to fast, affordable, reliable broadband – will be critical to any inclusive recovery,” the Community Foundation heads explained. “The Governor’s proposal and investment is a strong and visionary step forward, and we believe it should be enacted immediately, as proposed.”

The supporters, which include Antonia Hernández, President and CEO of California Community Foundation, alongside Fred Blackwell, CEO of San Francisco Foundation, Nicole Taylor, CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, James Head, President and CEO of East Bay Community Foundation, and Mark Stewart, President and CEO of San Diego Foundation, submitted the letter to the California legislative leaders expressing strong support for Governor Newsom’s historic investment of $7 billion to expand universal broadband access and affordability for high need communities. The letter urged them to act on the proposal without delay.

“Digital equity is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time, and is a priority for the California Community Foundation,” said Hernández, President and CEO of California Community Foundation. “The pandemic laid bare the consequences of inequitable access to fast, reliable, and affordable broadband, which made the disproportionate education, economic, and social impacts of the last 18 months significantly worse for unserved and underserved communities across Los Angeles County and the state. Justice delayed is justice denied; there is no reason to delay critical investments in public infrastructure that gets us closer to digital equity.”

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Full text of the letter below and posted here:
https://staging5.calfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/CF-Budget-Letter.pdf

Honorable Members of the California Legislature,

The undersigned community foundations would like to express strong support for Governor Newsom’s historic investment of $7 billion to expand universal broadband access and affordability for high need communities, and support for moving this entire investment forward without delay.

We want to thank you for your leadership in ensuring that the state’s responses and investments in these unprecedented times have focused on equity and inclusion. Without your commitment to racial equity, the communities that suffered the most severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and were often left out by federal CARES Act dollars, would have been further left behind.

Recovering from the pandemic and building a stronger, more just, and more equitable California will require further investments in bold, innovative, and transformative change. Digital equity – ensuring universal access to fast, affordable, reliable broadband – will be critical to any inclusive recovery.

The Governor’s proposal and investment is a strong and visionary step forward, and we believe it should be enacted immediately, as proposed.

More than 15 million Californians live in a broadband monopoly in addition to the 2.3 million who have no access to broadband at the speeds required to fully participate in modern society, from education to economic development to accessing government services. These monopolies have led to digital redlining, where the fastest, most reliable, and most affordable broadband infrastructure investments have been limited to wealthy communities, while the rest are stuck with older, slower, less reliable, and more expensive service or without any service at all.

The long-term, systemic solution to equitable access, service, and affordability is a statewide open access middle mile network as the Governor has proposed — public infrastructure for the public good — and the time to begin building it is now.

We are concerned that delayed and staggered funding will mean millions of Californians living in unserved and underserved communities will continue to fall behind as they face down the disparate impacts of digital exclusion. These are the same communities that have disproportionately borne the brunt of pandemic impacts and further delaying their access to fast, reliable, and affordable broadband will result in further denying them opportunity for a resilient recovery.

Like you, for more than a year we have responded to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in highly impacted communities, from Oakland and San Jose to Southeast Los Angeles. Through grantmaking and public-private partnerships we contributed to efforts that provided economic and rent relief, COVID 19 testing and vaccine equity, and supported distance learning in disconnected communities.

From that vantage point, the inequitable impacts of the digital divide have been glaring—with tens of thousands of Californians facing tremendous barriers to distance learning, left out of the promise of telehealth and unable to schedule access vaccine appointments, locked out of access to government services, and unable to be counted in the Census because of poor connectivity and access to devices.

Just as glaring has been the limited ability of local jurisdictions to quickly expand access or ensure affordability or the necessary speeds and reliability. The governor’s proposal would allow localities to immediately begin to solve those shortcomings.

Publicly owned open access middle mile infrastructure is useful mile-by-mile, making a difference as soon as building begins. Slow action, extending the investment across multiple years, or delaying implementation by even a few months would come at a tremendous cost, perpetuating the inequities for years or even a generation to come.

The Governor’s plan puts the dollars to work immediately, leverages federal funding that may become unavailable in the case of delay, and deploys solutions to address many facets of the digital divide in parallel, further accelerating the impact of the investment.

We urge your support and immediate adoption of these critical investments in digital equity and our communities’ future.

Antonia Hernández
President and CEO, California Community Foundation

Fred Blackwell
CEO, San Francisco Foundation

Nicole Taylor
CEO, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Mark Stewart
President and CEO, San Diego Foundation

James Head
President and CEO, East Bay Community Foundation