Many of us were struck by the image of two young girls huddled around a smartphone at a fast-food restaurant parking lot, accessing its Wi-Fi to complete their homework. In 2020, students around the country pivoted to remote learning and this change revealed to us just how much access to affordable, high-speed internet matters. Quality high-speed internet is a necessity for students to succeed in school and be set up for the future. What the image of the young girls showed us is that internet access is not shared equally.
The bottom line is that families and individuals that are considered low-income have a greater challenge accessing high-speed and reliable internet. This lack of connectivity is a barrier to equity and The Committee for Greater L.A. is doing something about it through our Internet Action Team (IAT).
Despite how many of us rely on high-speed internet for school, work, and resources, far too many people in our state and LA County are left behind. Decades of digital redlining practices in many of LA county’s communities of color and low-income communities have worked to systematically disadvantage residents from accessing affordable, reliable, and high-speed internet. Sixteen percent of Latinos in California are unconnected, representing the largest share of people who lack internet access. One in three LAUSD students do not have access to affordable, high-speed broadband internet at home. Twenty-five percent of low-income residents in California cite affordability as the main barrier to broadband access, and approximately 50% of the families in the bottom 20% of the household income distribution are unconnected or under-connected.
We believe that broadband internet service is an essential utility and a civil right, whose broader adoption has the potential to unlock the economic and creative capacity of our County. We have three objectives that we know will have a significant impact on closing the digital divide.
- Universal Adoption: By 2027, we want to ensure that all residents in LA County are connected to broadband service of at least 100/20 Mbps for no more than $30 a month ensuring high-speed at an accessible cost.
- Fiber Future: By 2040, we want to eliminate disparities in broadband accessibility so that every resident, regardless of location, income, or identity, can access fiber-based broadband service with at least gigabit-symmetric speeds by 2040. Most people who do have broadband have only one option for the fiber-based service that is essential for the highest speeds and new economic opportunities, this objective aims to change that.
- Sustained Advocacy: Elevate and grow a vibrant ecosystem of community advocates from across the county focused on aligned, active, and sustainable broadband equity advocacy.
Across these three objectives – universal adoption, a fiber future, and sustained advocacy – the IAT is embarking on sharing a wide range of actions across sectors that can help ensure everyone in the county adopts broadband service by 2027 and that everyone has high quality, fiber-based service at affordable prices by 2040. We look forward to sharing what we’ve learned so that together, we can deliver equitable broadband access for LA County.