Government / Politics

Assembly member Rivas holds broadband town hall

State representatives and area leaders push for more internet access and greater competition among providers.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Julia Hicks.

As the pandemic caused a major increase in internet usage, concerns about who didn’t have access to the internet have come to light. On July 22 via Zoom, State Assembly member Robert Rivas brought together state Senator Anna Caballero, Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez (District 3),  Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo (District 1), Assembly member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Alisal Family Resource Center Director Carissa Purnell and San Jose State University Urban Planning Professor Vincent Del Casino to discuss expanding broadband access in California.

Broadband refers to the amount of high-speed data a single cable can transmit at once. The most common types of connections are cable modems, which use the same connections as cable TV, and digital subscriber line (DSL) modems, which are the connections that use phone lines. According to, in San Benito County there are 14 internet providers, but there are 4,000 people without access to wired internet. In the state, 2.3 million people do not have broadband access. Given San Benito County’s significant rural area, the goal of local leaders is to provide those 4,000 people with access to a sustainable form of internet.

Assembly member Aguiar-Curry noted that Senate Bill 156 could potentially help San Benito County. The bill is a $6 billion investment to bring broadband access to rural/unserved areas in the state, and allow for collaboration between all levels of government.

Caballero discussed Senate Bill 28, which will allow for public-private partnerships in the establishment of internet infrastructure for rural and underserved communities. She also recalled that in 2006, the state formed a 10-year statewide franchise with cable companies, which took control away from local governments. However, she said local governments were able to gain back some control when the cable companies started bundling internet access with cable TV.

Also mentioned were Assembly Bill 14 and Senate Bill 4. Assembly member Aguiar-Curry said the bills include urban areas that do not have broadband access. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal was to put $6 billion into a trailer bill, with $3.25 billion for state-owned open access to the “middle mile,” which she described as like a “freeway” of broadband. It goes up and down the state of California and it’s made up of fibers. The “last mile” is the connections that stretch out to businesses, homes, schools and farms. She noted that AB 14 continues a surcharge which already appears on a basic phone bill. She said that it’s not a tax, but a fee of 23 cents a month that helps collect $150 million a year to use as leverage for getting additional funds from the federal government.

How is all of this going to be affordable? Caballero said that competition for broadband services will cause providers to offer low prices. While she noted that making broadband affordable is not in the hands of local authorities, legislators can still cut down costs as low as possible.

Alejo mentioned that lifeline programs are expanding from subsidized phone services to include internet access. He also said that increasing the public access to broadband is a non-partisan issue, and that it was necessary to continue pushing for change locally and statewide. 


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Julia Hicks

Julia Hicks is a 2021 San Benito High School alumni. She was the co-editor in chief of the yearbook and San Benito High School's Associated Student Body (ASB) Historian. Julia is a track and field student-athlete in the events of discus and shot put. She has been a part of Ernie Reyes' West Coast World Martial Arts for the past 12 years and is a 4th degree black belt. She will be attending Boise State University's Honors College in the fall and will pursue her degree in criminal justice with a minor in journalism.