State leaders urge legislature to pass Newsom's $7B broadband access expansion

California Governor Gavin Newsom holds a press conference for the official reopening of the state of California at Universal Studios Hollywood on June 15, 2021 in Universal City, California.
California Governor Gavin Newsom holds a press conference for the official reopening of the state of California at Universal Studios Hollywood on June 15, 2021 in Universal City, California. Photo credit Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

How would you like to have faster internet access? A coalition of local and state leaders is urging lawmakers to pass a multibillion dollar proposal to greatly expand broadband internet access in California.

California Forward, a statewide advocacy group, on Tuesday called on the legislature to pass Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $7 billion broadband infrastructure plan. It would expand high-speed internet access to the 2 million Californians who still don’t have it.

"We can no longer simply stand idly by, allowing our most vulnerable children to resort to fast-food restaurants for access to reliable Wi-Fi," former state treasurer John Chiang, now a co-chair of California Forward’s Leadership Council, said Tuesday in a press conference.

Chiang said the coronavirus pandemic has shown that high-speed access is no longer a luxury, arguing it’s "as vital as electricity and clean water."

Newsom’s plan includes $4 billion for an open-access middle mile network along Caltrans right-of-ways. Some internet service providers oppose it, arguing it could interfere with their own plans to expand gig-speed internet.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said Newsom’s plan could close the “digital divide” by expanding gig-speed internet to underserved communities across the state.

"That would make high-speed broadband affordable and feasible for every community in California," she said.

The state legislature has until July 1 to pass the broadband package.