Digital Equity LA Picket Urges CA State Senator to Pass AB 41

Digital Equity LA logo

Chants for “affordable” and “quality Internet” rang through the corridors of Inglewood City Hall this morning.

The source of that sound came from members of the coalition known as Digital Equity LA who assembled to picket in front of State Sen. Steven Bradford’s Office, publicly calling for an “end to digital redlining” and for passage of Assembly Bill 41 (AB 41), also known as The Digital Equity in Video Franchising Act of 2023.

If passed as is, the proposed bill – which we wrote about previously here – would establish an equal access requirement, anti-discrimination provisions, and a process for the public and local governments to provide input on the franchise agreements governing how cable Internet service providers serve their communities.

Digitial Equity LA Picket

Noting how nearly 98 percent of all broadband subscribers in the Golden State get Internet service through cable companies operating under DIVCA franchises, reforming the franchise law would help reform broadband access – which the coalition says is essential to address the digital divide across one of the largest metro areas in the nation.

Organizers told ILSR “Angelenos are tired of unjust broadband access and the few companies that dominate the market,” pointing to a recent report published by California Advocates that highlights how cable companies have “drastically raised prices for entry-level services at the beginning of the pandemic, and that Californians pay more on average for broadband than people in most other states.”

The timing of the picket was coordinated to push state lawmakers to pass AB 41 in the run up to a State Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications hearing. Committee members are considering amendments over the coming days and may possibly vote on the bill on Monday, July 10.

Digital Equity Picket

Today’s action targeted Bradford – a prominent and powerful State Senator – because he chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications.

He also represents California’s Senate District 35, which includes the Los Angeles County communities of Carson, San Pedro, Compton, West Compton, Gardena, Harbor City, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lennox, West Carson, Watts, Willowbrook, and Wilmington.

Shayna Englin, Director of the California Community Foundation (CCF) Digital Equity Initiative, which provides financial and programmatic support for the Digital Equity LA coalition, told ILSR that Bradford “has control over whether the bill will move forward with or without industry friendly amendments that (would) effectively gut” AB 41.

Digital Equity LA – which comprises 30 different equity advocacy organizations (and includes ILRS’s Community Broadband Networks Initiative) – is working to build “a movement for community-based action to close the digital divide.”

Digital Equity LA pricing discrimination

The coalition made its first big public splash with the publication of a report, covered by the LA Times

The report – "Sounding the Alarm: Disparities in Advertised Pricing for Fast, Reliable Broadband" – demonstrated how the county’s cable monopoly engages in discriminatory pricing practices whereby LA residents are getting slower but more expensive Internet service than what is being offered in wealthier neighborhoods.

Inline photos courtesy of ILSR's Digital Equity LA Coordinator Claudia Oliveira