Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "los angeles"
In the wake of the new rules issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prevent digital discrimination, digital equity advocates from California to Cleveland are leveraging the new federal rules to spur local action.
In Los Angeles, city leaders have passed an ordinance to combat what advocates say are discriminatory investment and business practices that leave historically marginalized communities without access to affordable high-quality Internet. Similar efforts to mobilize communities and local officials are underway in Oakland and Cleveland.
In November 2023, the FCC codified rules to prevent digital discrimination, outlining a complaint process whereby members of the public can offer evidence of digital discrimination being committed by Internet service providers (ISPs). Though the FCC order does not outline local policy solutions, nor does it empower localities to carry out enforcement of the federal rules, it has the potential to open up conversations between local advocates and elected officials about new ordinances, stronger enforcement of existing ones, or public investment to facilitate competition and the building of better broadband networks.
Los Angeles First City in Nation To Officially Define Digital Discrimination At Local Level
The local organizing work behind the proposed ordinance in LA dates back to 2022 when digital equity advocates began to document inequitable broadband access across the county.
California digital equity advocates say that recent cuts to the state’s ambitious broadband deployment plan unfairly harm low-income and minority communities. And despite promises from state leaders that the cuts will be reversed, local equity advocates say the process used to determine which neighborhoods should be prioritized remains rotten to the core.
In 2021, California state leaders announced a $7 billion, multi-armed plan to bring affordable, next-generation fiber to every state resident. A key part of the plan involved building a $4 billion statewide middle-mile open access fiber network designed to drive down the costs of market entry, improve competition, and reduce broadband prices.
At the time, California officials said “the statewide network will incentivize providers to expand service to unserved and underserved areas.” Groups like the EFF lauded the “historic” investment, likening it to bold, early efforts to ensure rural electrification.
But last May, California officials quietly announced they’d be making some notable cuts to the state’s affordable broadband expansion plan. Blaming inflation and rising construction costs, the state’s renewed budget called for a 17 percent reduction in planned broadband investment, on average, across the state.
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.
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.
Training to Build the Networks We Want at Broadband Bootcamps - Episode 537 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by ILSR Communications Team Lead Sean Gonsalves to talk about the most recent Tribal Broadband Bootcamp, in Gila River. Tribal attendees from across North America came together - some experienced, and others tackling structural broadband inequities in their regions for the first time - came together to meet each other, share lessons learned, and get hands-on experiences with the nuts and bolts about improving connectivity for families that have long been left behind by the private marketplace. With help from representatives from Gila River Telecommunications, attendees learned about deployment technologies, fiber splicing, security, operations, digital inclusion, and more. Christopher and Sean also chat during the show their recent participation at the the digital equity Los Angeles summit, and first urban broadband bootcamp from ILSR.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
As Los Angeles County officials work with community coalitions to improve high-speed Internet access in underserved communities across the region, the Digital Equity LA Summit last week focused on the challenges ahead. Front and center: urging state officials to fix the broadband priority maps the state will use to target where to invest $2 billion in state broadband grant funds with the state months away from receiving over a billion additional dollars from the federal BEAD program.
Study: Low Income LA County Neighborhoods Pay More for Internet Service Than Wealthier Neighborhoods
While a racially-charged controversy swirls loudly around the Los Angeles City Council, a new study lays bare how low-income communities of color are impacted by the quiet business decisions of the region’s monopoly Internet service provider.
Slower and More Expensive/Sounding the Alarm: Disparities in Advertised Pricing for Fast, Reliable Broadband details how Charter Spectrum “shows a clear and consistent pattern of the provider reserving its best offers - high speed at low cost - for the wealthiest neighborhoods in LA County.”
Authored by Digital Equity LA, a coalition of more than 40 community-based organizations, not only highlights how economically vulnerable households in LA County pay more for slower service than those in wealthy neighborhoods, it also provides evidence for how financially-strapped households are also saddled with onerous contracts and are rarely targeted by advertisements for Charter Spectrum’s low cost plans.
A leading voice behind the Digital Equity LA initiative – Shayna Englin, Director of the Digital Equity Initiative at the California Community Foundation (CCF) – notes that higher poverty neighborhoods (which tend to be mostly made up of people of color) pay anywhere from $10 to $40 more per month than mostly white, higher-income neighborhoods for the exact same service.
Last November the LA County Board of Supervisors quietly and unanimously approved a project that could dramatically reshape affordable Internet access in the largest county in the United States. While success will require coordination at an unprecedented scale to avoid the mistakes of the past, this new effort has momentum and funding options on its side.
The newly approved plan first aims to deliver wireless broadband to the 365,000 low-income households in Los Angeles county that currently don’t subscribe to broadband service, starting with a 12,500 home pilot project. But the vote also approved a new feasibility study into a Los Angeles county-wide municipal fiber network.
The motion tasked the LA County Internal Services Department, directed by Director Selwyn Hollins, with coordinating the effort. Hollins in turn is working with the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Street lighting (which had already received a CBDG grant to help fund local Wi-Fi networks) and other regional city agencies already engaged in digital divide efforts.
Sources familiar with project planning say it’s too early to specify pricing and speeds, but one goal is to be able to provide symmetrical 100 Mbps service for $30/month. As with other communities (like Fort Pierce, Florida), the county then hopes to layer on the $30 discount from the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program to ensure costs are negligible for low income residents.
The City of Los Angeles has announced a confusing intention to release an RFP for a vendor to install a gigabit fiber network. A recent Government Technology article touches on the broad plan to build a massive fiber and wireless network to every public and private premise.
GovTech spoke with Steve Reneker, general manager of the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency. We last spoke with Reneker in Episode #11 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. In that interview, he described how Riverside, California, used the publicly owned network to revitalize the economy and support the community's digital inclusion plan. Los Angeles wants to emmulate Riverside's success. From the GovTech article:
“[The plan] is really focused on fixing the operational issues that due to the economy have been left by the wayside over the last three and four years,” Reneker said. “So, correcting the lack of investment, the lack of technology refresh, the reduction in staff that make operational aspects of our infrastructure difficult to keep going forward, tries to deliver an incremental approach to starting a long, lengthy rebuilding process.”
Councilman Bob Blumenthal introduced a proposal in August, 2013 to also blanket the city in free Wi-fi. Blumenfield's website states the city has 3,500 existing wireless hotspots.
Engadget reports that the City Council unanimously approved the proposal to move forward with the plan at a November 5th meeting. A Request for Proposals will be issued in the coming months for the fiber and free wireless network:
Burbank first laid its fiber in the late 1980s and began leasing in the mid 1990s, said Robert DeLeon, a senior electrical services planner in Burbank. It currently leases to 15 studios, such as Warner Brothers and Disney, or studio-related businesses, like post-production companies. Like Santa Monica, Burbank's main goal in leasing its dark fiber was to attract business. But at $200 per strand per mile, Burbank is currently making approximately $1 million that is being put back into the general fund.Santa Monica's revenues from leases have been more modest, but the benefits of leasing go far beyond regular payments. The network increases economic development and improves the quality of life with free Wi-Fi in a variety of public areas. Further, the city no longer has to overpay for the data connections it needs for municipal functions.
Santa Monica is also leasing to 15 businesses that include hospitals, entertainment companies and new media outlets, among others, but is only making $270,000. It was never Santa Monica's intention for the leasing of dark fiber to be a major source of revenue, Wolf said.Santa Monica - UCLA Medical Center uses city-owned fiber because the city has better customer service:
Though there are other options for obtaining a fiber optic connection, such as AT&T, Kacperski said the hospital decided to lease from City Hall because hospitals are community based and because City Hall has better customer service than private carriers.As we have often maintained, locally owned networks win on customer service (and often reliability). Community networks may not always win on prices because massive incumbents can engage in predatory pricing by cross-subsidizing from non-competitive markets, but they can win on providing a better experience for subscribers.