California Paves Way to Expand Broadband Services to Rural Areas

California Paves Way to Expand Broadband Services to Rural Areas

A student works on a computer at Freedom Preparatory Academy in Prove, Utah, on Feb. 10, 2021. (George Frey/Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

10/12/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

California is changing rules to allow some agencies to lease state property to internet service providers in an effort to speed up broadband development in rural locations.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 387 Oct. 8, a law that authorizes the state’s Department of General Services to lease property for other state agencies to support building broadband infrastructure to connect unserved or underserved regions in the state.
The measure, authored by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), aims to improve internet connectivity across California to provide “digital equity” in rural areas.
“With approval of this new law, the state can use its property to generate revenue while enticing providers to expand their offerings,” Mr. Dodd said in a press release Oct. 10. “It will fill in unserved zones and help get high-speed data to those who need it for work, school, and home life.”
Residents in less-populated areas of California have less access to broadband services that are reliable and high-speed, and some don’t have access at all. A study published by the Public Policy Institute of California last year found that 95 percent of California households had some type of internet access, meaning 2 million don’t.
Low-income households were less likely to have such access, according to the policy institute.
“Many students still struggle to access the internet for their homework,” the institute said in its study. “For example, about 13,000 students of Fresno Unified School District’s 60,000 students remain unconnected to the internet outside of their school’s network in the greater Fresno area.”
Under existing law, the general services department is not able to execute leases of state-owned real estate to support such development.
The new law will give the department more flexibility in setting lease terms, Mr. Dodd said. It will also allow the department to create incentives for broadband providers to invest in such properties in the state.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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