New Digital Equity Legislation in California

On Wednesday, February 7th, Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced AB 2239, groundbreaking legislation that will make California the first state in the nation to codify the Federal Communication Commission’s newly adopted definition of digital discrimination as California law.

The historic legislation is backed by digital equity advocates, like PIQE, that recognize the policy is crucial to closing the digital divide. By empowering individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate the digital world, PIQE contributes to breaking down barriers to education and economic success.

Below are excerpts from the press release shared by CADE and Digital Equity LA.

Last November, the FCC defined “digital discrimination of access” as, “policies or practices, not justified by genuine issues of technical or economic feasibility, that (1) differentially impact consumers; access to broadband internet access service based on their income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin or (2) are intended to have such differential impact.” These federal rules were adopted following a multi-year rulemaking process during which the FCC received and engaged extensive formal input from digital equity advocates, industry stakeholders, and others.

“Despite historic public investments to close the digital divide, low-income communities of color across the state remain disproportionately disconnected, stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide,” said Assemblymember Bonta. “To the extent that there are policies and practices that serve to exacerbate this persistent inequity – even when that is not the intent – we must put an end to them. That is my intent with AB 2239.”

In January, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed the nation’s first city-level digital discrimination policy. The Los Angeles motion referenced several studies demonstrating that industry pricing practices worsen the digital divide by exacerbating 1 the challenge of broadband affordability, as “providers systematically offer worse service – slower, delivered over older technology – to low-income communities at the same price that they offered fast, reliable service to higher-income communities”.

“CCF applauds Assemblymember Bonta’s bold leadership along with digital equity and community advocates across California to end digital discrimination,” said Miguel A. Santana, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation. “This bill will make California the first state in the nation to take this step, following closely on the heels of the City of Los Angeles’ groundbreaking digital discrimination ordinance. Access to the internet is a 21st-century civil right, and we’re proud to stand with our communities in this vital work.”

Establishing a definition of digital discrimination for the State will be instrumental in ensuring California’s historic investments of nearly $8 billion in state and federal funds in broadband infrastructure are deployed equitably. Co-sponsors of the legislation include the California Alliance for Digital Equity, #OaklandUndivided, the California Community Foundation, NextGen California, and The Children’s Partnership, and is expected to earn the support of dozens of digital equity advocates across California.

Ana Ponce, Executive Director of GPSN, a non-profit with a mission to bring together the Los Angeles community to catalyze the transformation of the public education system so that students of color and students living in poverty gain the knowledge, skills, and experiences to lead thriving adult lives, applauded the legislation. “Los Angeles’ students and families need and deserve equitable access to fast, reliable, and affordable internet. It is impossible to participate and thrive in today’s economy without it, so we are thrilled to stand with equity advocates across California in support of this important policy,” Ponce said.