(L) Gene Sperling, White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator, (C) Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), and (R) Amy Tong, Cali)fornia Secretary of Government Operations attended the “Investing in America” tour that made its final stop in San Bernardino, CA.
(L) Gene Sperling, White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator, (C) Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), and (R) Amy Tong, Cali)fornia Secretary of Government Operations attended the “Investing in America” tour that made its final stop in San Bernardino, CA. Credit: Prince James Story, BVN

Last Updated on April 15, 2023 by BVN

Prince James Story

On April 13, the White House-sponsored “Investing In America” tour made its last stop in San Bernardino. The Biden-Harris Administration tour, which began last month, aims to highlight the president’s economic plans on infrastructure, inflation, job building and supply chains.

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling, and California Secretary of Government Operations Amy Tong attended the event. 

Part of the Investing in America agenda includes how the president’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will support underserved and under-resourced communities. California will receive $540.2 million for high-speed internet under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund (CPF). 

“This commitment that’s in the American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan infrastructure bill,  is nothing short of the vision that universal broadband that is affordable, has to be an absolute must and essential foundation for every family, every small business, every school in the United States,” said Sperling.

The funding will provide high-speed internet service to approximately 127,000 families across California. 

“The pandemic upended life as we knew it and exposed the stark inequity in access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet in communities across the country, including rural, Tribal, and other underrepresented communities,” Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said in  a press release.

“This funding is a key piece of the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investments to increase access to high-speed internet for millions of Americans and provide more opportunities to fully participate and compete in the 21st-century economy.”

“The cost of internet is a necessity. It’s not a luxury,” said Aguilar. “We were just having conversations about [this and] the pandemic and kids using broadband [and] the lack of access that so many of our young people had in our school districts that prevented them from having that connectivity that was needed in order to learn in school during the pandemic,” said Aguilar during the  “Investing in America” tour event in San Bernardino.  (Photo: Prince James Story, BVN).

According to a UCLA study conducted in the fall of 2020, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, low-income households fared the worst, with over two in five households having limited access to a computer or the internet for their children. 

Over a third of households in the lowest educational bracket experienced limited access to a computer or the internet for their children.

The data also showed that 36 % of Black and 37% of Latino households had limited access to a computer or internet. 

In 2020, the passing of the Infrastructure Bill included the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provided a $30 discount, for those who qualify, for their internet bill; up to a $75 monthly discount if their home is on qualifying Tribal land; and a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet or desktop computer. 

“In addition to that, the federal ARPA fund also helped the state sign a nearly $84 million deal earlier this year with Arcadian Infocomm,” said Tang. “The Department of Technology is partnering with Arcadian to construct 306 miles from Los Angeles to Los Nietos. Along the way reaching thousands of unserved and underserved Californians.” 

During the event, Tang also talked about California’s Last-Mile and Middle-Mile programs, which will help eliminate the digital divide in the state. The last-mile project will be used to build infrastructure to provide schools, disabled users, and low-income households with the internet.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 156 into law in 2021, a bill that authorized the  investment of $6 billion in broadband infrastructure for middle-mile and last-mile projects. 

The goal for the middle-mile program is to create a state-wide fiber network. According to Mark Monroe, the Deputy Director of the Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative with the California Department of Technology, California is undergrounding 10,000 miles of fiber to bring high-speed internet to all Californians.

One example of the grant money at work in San Bernardino County is the Mountain Shadows Condominiums in Highland where 115 units who previously didn’t have internet service now do. 

To succeed in ending the digital divide, as noted by  Robert Osborn, Director of Communications at California Public Utilities Commission, there needs to be a commitment at the city and county levels to tackle the issue. 

“The problem that we’ve had now with the telephone companies is they’re investing in fiber and only [in]certain parts of the state. So, we’re trying to focus on empowering communities and empowering counties to do the planning for the places that have been ignored,” said Osborn. 

As mentioned above, providing high-speed internet service to underserved communities is a collective effort from the federal level to your local community leaders, who must be committed to ending the digital divide across California.

Report for America Corps member and Black Voice News Climate and Environmental Justice reporter, Prince James Story was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is an intersectional journalist with experience covering news and sports across numerous mediums. Story aims to inform the public of social inequities and discriminatory practices while amplifying the voices of those in the communities harmed. Story earned his master’s degree in Sports Journalism from Arizona State University-Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He earned a B.A. in Mass Communication and a B.A. in African American studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Contact Prince James with tips, comments, or concerns at Princejames@blackvoicenews.com or via Twitter @PrinceJStory.