You wouldn’t try to build a house with just one tool. And it’s not a good strategy for bridging the digital divide.
Ensuring adequate internet access for all Californians requires a holistic approach involving deployment of state-of-the-art wireless, also known as 5G, alongside conventional wired technology.
Gov. Newsom’s historic $6 billion broadband investment provides our best shot ever of improving both. The need was highlighted during the pandemic as millions accessed telehealth, pursued distance learning and worked remotely.
We learned that while wired connections play an important role, building more high-speed, wireless broadband networks like 5G is essential for keeping communities connected to vital services.
That is why Sen. Dodd has authored SB 556, the California Connectivity Act, which would require local governments to conform to existing federal law for wireless installations, removing bureaucratic barriers and accelerating deployment of wireless infrastructure in those communities.
Cities would continue to have broad discretion over aesthetics involving the use of utility poles. Existing agreements and contracts with providers would bepreserved. And in some cases, devices would be barred from installation in certain areas.
SB 556 would simply create a a predictable siting process and provide the consistency needed to accelerate small cell deployments across the state.
We believe this measure is what’s needed to maintain our momentum toward improvements and, ultimately, to succeed.
Wireless connectivity is a lifeline for many Californians, especially in low-income urban areas where installing hard cables is next to impossible. These new networks will help us achieve equity among the underserved.
In addition, high-speed, broadband connectivity is essential to ensuring reliable 911 service and protecting public safety in the event of a wildfire or other emergency. With the infernos now racing across our state, we can’t afford to delay expansion of our wireless networks.
For the LGBTQ+ community, deploying more wireless broadband infrastructure has the potential to make a tremendous impact on the health and safety of our community members. Many do not have traditional landline services and rely exclusively on cell phones to access the internet. For these and other vulnerable citizens, providing more wireless broadband solutions including new fixed wireless broadband services to homes and small businesses, will provide a crucial link to employment, health care and other essential services.
As a minority group, the LGBTQ+ community faces uphill battles when looking for a doctor – 81 percent of LGBTQ+ youth cite the Internet as critical for securing healthcare providers and medical information. Accelerating deployment of wireless broadband networks will give more Californians access to innovations like connected health, offering more flexible and tailored treatments and care.
SB 556 and other measures are critical to overcome the greatest barrier to wireless broadband deployment — the backlog of permits and red tape that prevent service providers from utilizing existing infrastructure and increasing connectivity for communities.
The bill would also ensure equitable access by requiring service providers to monitor their progress toward reaching California’s universal broadband access goals by reporting wireless broadband coverage by census tract annually to the Legislature.
It’s a perfect complement to the governor’s record broadband investment, which aims to tap our pioneering innovation and technology economy and “leave no part of the state behind.”
SB 556 is backed by business associations, educators, equity advocates, community-based organizations, senior citizen advocacy groups and more than 25,000 Californians across the state.
The bill has been approved by the Senate and Assembly. We’re hopeful it will get Gov. Newsom’s signature.
Ending the digital divide is within our reach. We just need the right tools to finish the job. That means a combined wireless and wired approach that unlocks existing resources, funding and infrastructure. We urge all Californians to show their support for this timely, commonsense legislation to ensure we are all connected.