California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation July 20 to help bridge the digital divide in the state by investing $6 billion in expanding broadband infrastructure and services for unserved and underserved communities.

“As we work to build California back stronger than before, the state is committed to addressing the challenges laid bare by the pandemic, including the digital divide holding back too many communities in a state renowned for its pioneering technology and innovation economy,” the governor said in a press release.

“This $6 billion investment will make broadband more accessible than ever before, expanding opportunity across the spectrum for students, families and businesses – from enhanced educational supports to job opportunities to health care and other essential services,” he said.

The legislation will:

  • Provide $3.25 billion to build, operate, and maintain an open access, state-owned middle mile network – high-capacity fiber lines to carry large amounts of data at high speeds and over longer distances between local networks;
  • Provide $2 billion for last-mile broadband connections to connect homes and businesses with local networks and expedite project deployment and enable Tribes and local governments to access the funding;
  • Provide $750 million for a loan loss reserve fund to improve the ability of local governments and nonprofits to secure broadband infrastructure financing; and
  • Create a broadband czar position at the state’s Department of Technology, as well as a broadband advisory committee with representatives from across state government and members appointed by the state legislature.

Overall, the legislation takes “a comprehensive and long-term approach to tackling the broadband infrastructure deficiencies still impacting rural and low-income communities, bringing the state closer to achieving affordable, high-speed broadband internet service for all communities,” the governor said.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs