The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion Tuesday to expand high-speed internet access for students and workers in need.
COVID-19 shed a light on many inequities within the county. The pandemic revealed a great disparity for internet access, which impacts children who are learning online and residents who are teleworking.
“As many have transitioned to working from home and distance learning, the need for affordable, reliable telecommunications services and resources is now more important than ever,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the county’s 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley. “We hope this effort will lead to a more just and equitable future in order to equip our residents with the access they need to learn, work, and thrive.”
The American Community Survey Data for L.A. County revealed that only 65 percent of households in low-income communities had internet access and only 51 percent had a computer. In total, 238,000 households lack internet access.
According to a study by the USC Annenberg School of Communications, one in four families with school-age children in Los Angeles County do not have the resources necessary for distance learning and are likely to fall behind in their education during the pandemic.
“Bridging the digital divide is an educational justice issue,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Communities of color, those from low-income families, people with disabilities, limited English-speakers, and people experiencing homelessness lack the appropriate technology to adequately telework or participate in distance-learning. No one should be left behind, and through this motion, the County hopes to ease this divide through digital innovation and inclusion.”
The motion raised by Supervisors Barger and Solis aims to create a plan to:
– Develop best practices for streamlining the permitting of high-speed broadband internet;
– Explore both public and private options for providing access to internet, including leveraging grants;
– Develop a database and geographic information system to display existing broadband infrastructure;
– Explore revisions to the County’s General Plan to give unincorporated areas sufficient access to high-speed internet; and
– Explore new strategies to provide free, low-cost or permit based internet to disadvantaged communities.
The motion directs the Department of Public Works and the Department of Regional Planning to report back to the Board in 90 days with their plan.
The motion by Barger and Solis can be found here.