Legislature Approves Sen. Dodd’s Broadband Connectivity Bill
SACRAMENTO – The Legislature today approved a bill from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that would greatly improve internet connectivity by removing local government roadblocks to the expansion of broadband service, especially in low-income and underserved communities.
“The pandemic has clearly elevated our understanding that broadband access is essential for participating in every aspect of modern society,” Sen. Dodd said. “Yet too many households across the state can’t get it because it’s not available where they live. Today we take a big step toward addressing that problem by bringing local government into compliance with federal standards that will ultimately help close the digital divide.”
The approval of Senate Bill 556, or the California Connectivity Act, follows the recent passage of the state’s $262.6 billion budget, which includes $6 billion for broadband expansion. SB 556 would make high-speed internet more broadly available for schools and businesses by removing local discretion to put hurdles before small cell deployment – something that is critical for reliable high-speed internet. It builds on existing law setting timelines and reasonable fees for processing and approving broadband projects.
The bill was introduced as employers and schools across the state have shifted to virtual participation, highlighting disparities of access faced by low-income families and people of color. Nearly 42% of California families said unreliable internet access was a challenge for them during distance learning according to a recent poll by EdSource and FM3 Research.
SB 556 is widely supported by businesses, schools and equity groups. It passed the Assembly with overwhelming support after previously being approved by the Senate. It heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his consideration following Senate concurrence.
“For too long, California has let self-interested parties place roadblocks on the path to universal broadband access. The pandemic made plain the costs of inaction and very few bore the burden more heavily than students these past 18 months,” said California School Boards Association CEO and Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “As schools continue to prepare students for the workplaces of the future, implement multiple modes of instruction and engagement, and navigate independent study and quarantines, it is imperative that all students have reliable internet. CSBA supports SB 566 because it will expedite deployment of broadband infrastructure in rural and low-income communities and help ensure that all students have access to a full range of quality academic and social programs.”
“Reliable, high-speed wireless internet access is critical to ensuring no Californian – including people of color, senior citizens and people with disabilities – is left behind as we transition to a new virtual era for learning, health care and more,” said Dr. Michael Lizárraga, president and CEO of The East Los Angeles Community Union. “SB 556 is a critical part of the solution to overcome barriers to wireless broadband deployment, ensure more equitable access and help close the digital divide.”
Senator Bill Dodd represents the 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Yolo, Sonoma, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. You can learn more about the district and Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.