LOS ANGELES — In an effort to bridge a “digital divide” and help provide equitable internet access, a civic group called the Committee for Greater LA has released a roadmap that points the way to universal access. broadband in Los Angeles County by 2027.
In a report titled “Connecting Communities Countywide: Delivering Broadband as a Civil Right in Los Angeles,” the group seeks, by 2027, that all LA County residents will be connected to broadband service of at least 100/20 Mbps for $30 or less per month.
By 2040, the goal is for every county resident to be able to afford fiber-based broadband service with multi-gigabit speeds, according to the committee.
To these ends, the report outlines several actions to achieve digital equity, including the creation of a county-wide Internet infrastructure agency, the widespread adoption of the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, and the formalization of an organization focused on digital equity.
The Committee for Greater LA defines itself as “a group of civic leaders working to advance system change and dismantle institutional racism.”
A statement from the group calls the need to address digital equity “urgent” and adds: “While many Angelenos depend on high-speed internet for school, work and resources, far too many people in LA County are left behind”.
“Decades of digital redlining practices in many of LA County’s low-income and color communities have systematically prevented residents from accessing affordable, reliable, and high-speed internet,” the group said in a statement.
Committee Chairman Miguel A. Santana said that “while there are many initiatives aimed at addressing the digital divide, this is the first blueprint that provides a roadmap for harnessing and coordinating efforts for bold, systemic and progressive action for lasting change around broadband equity.”
The committee pointed to a 2020 USC Annenberg study which showed that one-third of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District do not have high-speed internet access.
Additionally, a 2021 survey by the California Emergency Technology Fund found that affordability is the top barrier to broadband access for the majority of households without internet connectivity, according to the group.
The Committee for Greater LA’s report was presented by its Internet Action Team, which included 130 people from a variety of sectors, including government, academia, business, technology and community leaders.
Among them were Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap, and Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who chairs the council’s technology and general services committee.
“Many advocates, foundations and community leaders have sounded the alarm about the need to ensure that all Angelenos have the means to access quality, affordable internet at home,” Raman said. “Connectivity is not shared equally across our city and county, leaving behind many students, business owners, low-income residents and communities of color.”
Jarrett Barrios, Co-Chair of the Internet Action Team and Senior Vice President of Strategy and Programs at the California Community Foundation, added, “Incorporating the voices of many partners working on digital equity, our Blueprint focuses on actions that local and regional government entities can take to approach broadband policies through the lens of public interest for LA
“We ask who decides what government investments in fiber infrastructure, wireless networks, subsidy programs, or digital literacy training should be, now and in the future, and what systems inform those decisions.”
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Holly Mitchell introduced a motion last week to create a position of chief digital equity officer for the county.
“Internet access has always been vital for individuals and families to learn, work and access vital resources and information,” Mitchell said. “Yet quality, affordable internet remains out of reach for far too many people in Los Angeles County.”
The report calls on “all government, civic and community actors” to work together to achieve universal broadband access by 2027”.
“LA County faces a historic opportunity to become a national leader in delivering broadband equity and providing industry-leading connectivity services to all residents and businesses,” the report said.
“Now is the time to act boldly and incrementally – the energy and support is already there for many initiatives, but a unified push is needed to ensure everyone benefits from universal broadband efforts.”
Said Spiegel: “We were inspired by the outpouring of community support to build a more inclusive digital future. We have a unique opportunity to come together across sectors to ensure Los Angeles is a national leader in broadband equity and to help unlock the full potential of people and businesses in our region. .