How to Close the Digital Divide: And Why It Is a Matter of Public Policy!

California State Association of Counties

Lloyd Levine | September 15, 2016

This is the second of a two-part series on the digital divide. Part one can be found here.

Why is the Digital Divide a matter of public policy? The answer is simple: Since the turn of the new millennium, high-speed Internet access has become crucial to business, education, health and civic life.

Digital access and inclusion are 21st-century social justice and equity issues. Like the electricity grid, railroads, and the Federal Highway System, broadband infrastructure is a necessary public and private good. Because so much of modern life is dependent on being connected, the California has a compelling state interest to ensure that broadband access is available and affordable to everyone.

Recognizing this, the California Legislature has enshrined in statute a goal of 98% broadband access by 2017. Yet California is falling short of that goal, especially in rural areas, where the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimates only 43% of rural households have access to reliable broadband service.

While the private sector has connected 70% of the state, that number has leveled off. To bridge the rest of the divide, the public and private sectors must work together.

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