Representative Mike Thompson on Wednesday held a press conference with state and local leaders at Camille Creek Community School in Napa to highlight what the broadband portion of the $ 1.2 trillion investment law and jobs in infrastructure, enacted in November last year, will bring California.
Thompson and several other speakers specifically highlighted how investing in broadband will help education, telemedicine services and small businesses.
“There is a total of $ 65 billion in broadband funding in the bill. This is the most significant funding the federal government has ever provided for broadband expansion, ”said Thompson.
Thompson was joined by California Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Napa County Education Office Superintendent Barbara Nemko, Vintage High School Principal Sarah O’Connor and Senior Carolina Padilla Ayala of Vintage. .
Thompson said the investment will help equalize Internet access in education, thereby improving learning conditions for many students. He also said it will also improve people’s ability to access telemedicine – which has expanded dramatically during the pandemic – and improve internet conditions for small businesses, resulting in more jobs and activity. increased economy.
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Aguiar-Curry said all speakers were fighting for investments in broadband before the pandemic, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how important internet access can be. Aguiar-Curry pointed to recent state bills to provide up to $ 150 million per year in broadband grant funding for under-connected areas. The bills, Assembly Bill 14 and Senate Bill 4, drafted by Aguiar-Curry and Senator Lena Gonzalez, were enacted last year.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the forest fires of the past few years have made it clear how critical connectivity is in an emergency, including the massive destruction of our region,” Aguiar-Curry said. . “We need to make sure the students learn at home and what we can do in a forest fire evacuation. The need for accelerated broadband cannot be ignored.
Nemko, who has been heavily involved in implementing digital learning in preschool education, said that the magnitude of the impact of the internet and connectivity on the world cannot be overstated. education. She gave the example of a young child enjoying a totally different interactive educational experience from a digital book that reads by itself to the child and allows him, for example, to click on a cow that mows. then.
Nemko said Napa is a rural county with many places that have poor connectivity. In distance learning, she said, students who were in fact able to consistently connect to the internet had a much better experience than those who couldn’t.
“When we do distance education, and we hope we never have to do it again, but when we were there it was huge for the students who were able to connect and do their jobs,” Nemko said. “For students who had to get a paper package, it was definitely not the same. And so we were thrilled that even in our preschool our kids all had iPads and could work from home because they knew how to use an iPad. “
O’Connor, the principal of Vintage High School, said nothing will ever replace the human and in-person connection of teaching and learning, but the circumstances of recent years show the importance of moving on to distance learning ‘at the touch of a finger.
What is most important in the bill, she said, is to create greater consistency in Internet access, and thus improve equity in the educational environment.
Padilla Ayala, a high school student from Vintage High School, said she had struggled with internet connectivity throughout the pandemic. Even without distance learning, she said, much of the school relies on the Internet – to check grades, hand in homework and see announcements, for example.
In distance education, she said: “My internet probably never worked. I would have to turn off my camera for my sound to work or I would have to turn off my sound for my camera to work. And she still has to attend various meetings done on Zoom.
California is expected to receive $ 44.6 billion from infrastructure law overall, which is more than any other state but among the lowest adjusted for population, reaching about $ 1,100 per California resident, according to CNBC information.
But, Thompson said, California is still expected to benefit enormously from federal funds, which include about $ 25 billion for highways, $ 4 billion for bridges, $ 10 billion for public transportation and $ 385 million for public transportation. build electric charging stations across the state.
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You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.