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San Diegans Could Benefit From $5 Billion High-Speed Internet Proposal

Seniors use computers at the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego on July 13, 2021.
John Carroll
Seniors use computers at the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego on July 13, 2021.

There are two big reasons why millions of Californians don’t have high-quality internet — either they can’t afford it, or the infrastructure isn’t there to provide it.

But a new agreement between Gov. Newsom and legislative leaders aims to fix that.

San Diegans Could Benefit From $5 Billion High-Speed Internet Proposal
Listen to this story by John Carroll

The agreement could be a game changer to people who live in urban and rural areas.

“I’ve heard these conversations before, so what I’m looking for are investments," said Barry Pollard, CEO of the Urban Collaborative Project. The group works to identify disparities within the greater San Diego area, and works on solutions. The San Diego native said the new broadband bill is critical in closing the digital divide and helping families who are struggling.

“(Families) that have 4 and 5 kids that are in school and they have to take turns on the internet because they drop connection. That is real," he said.

The new legislation would set aside more than $5 billion for the expansion of broadband. $3.5 billion to build out the lines, the so-called middle mile, and $2 billion for the last-mile lines that will connect homes and businesses with local networks in rural and urban areas.

RELATED: San Diego Hires Nonprofit To Help Residents Close The Digital Divide

There is another sizable group that is underserved when it comes to broadband is seniors. At the Mary and Gary West Senior Wellness Center in downtown San Diego, the group Serving Seniors is making sure they’re not forgotten.

“There’s been a huge digital divide for older adults that’s just been exacerbated by the pandemic," Serving Seniors President & CEO Paul Downey told KPBS.

VIDEO: San Diegans Could Benefit From $5 Billion High-Speed Internet Proposal

Downey said a lot of seniors were forced to just sit at home during the pandemic. They didn’t have the internet connectivity to help them stay in touch with family and friends.

Another aspect that’s especially important for seniors and the internet is healthcare.

“Along with being the right thing to do, it can also be cost effective if we can convert a lot of older adults to being able to use telehealth for things that don’t require an in-the-office visit with a physician," Downey said.

The infrastructure that will provide connectivity is just part of this effort. The Governor and legislative leaders said they’re also committed to providing funding before the end of the year to help people pay for that access to today’s high-speed internet.