New program unveiled; helps bridge internet gap for many left out

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Jon LeDoux, El Centro Elementary School District superintendent

EL CENTRO – State and local officials gathered at the El Centro Elementary School District Parent and Community Engagement Center Friday to celebrate Charter Communications’ launching of a new program aimed at providing internet assistance for low income families and seniors. They also discussed AB 1665, otherwise known as the Internet for all NOW Act of 2017, which is currently waiting for a signature from the California Governor. The program was made possible by Charter Communications’ parent company Spectrum Communications.

Representatives for state Sen. Ben Hueso and Congressman Juan Vargas were on hand Friday to support Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia in the unveiling of the program that allows low income families and seniors to bridge the gap between those who cannot afford internet service and those who see it as just another utility.

This low income assistance program was just a vision ten years ago, officials said, when acting Senator of California Alex Padilla (now Secretary of State) began working on a piece of legislation called the California Advance Services Fund.

The idea was to have 98 percent of California connected to some type of broadband service. It was believed there should be no excuse why any corner of the state should not be connected.

Officials have said the service is important for the purposes of emergency purposes and for rural communities to help tele-health services for communities that otherwise could not provide the services needed for a computer or mobile phone.

“It has been an ongoing need and will become a bigger need in the future as our district progresses and in our curriculum and we start to send devices home with students to do their homework, but if there is no internet then they are at a disadvantage. But we don’t want that, so this is a positive step for our students,” stated Jon LeDoux, El Centro Elementary School District superintendent.

“We have a global society and kids need access to information,” LeDoux said. “The curriculum is shifting to where the students need access to do their homework. We are in a high poverty county here, and unfortunately, a lot of the kids here can’t afford to have the internet at home. So right now, we are allowing them to stay after school to do their research, and it’s really not the best way to get our parents involved in the process.”

While it has become critical for educational institutions and emergency services to be linked to the internet, at the same time, nearly anything the public does necessitates access to the internet, including job searches and making doctor appointments. For those reasons, it was believed that there should be no excuse why any corner of the state should not be connected, according to information from a press release.

Officials said there was a great push to be able to prioritize the unserved areas over the underserved areas and to be able to connect everyone throughout the state effectively. Partnering up with Charter was seen as extremely important, because the company has already been providing service to these communities.

With the passing of AB 1665 (waiting to be signed by the governor), there will be dollars in place in the infrastructure and the programs by the communications company to adopt the service. Two key factors in making this come together in the end was infrastructures being in place, and the adoption by the communications companies to create a program attainable and affordable, the press release said.

“In this day and age, 30 percent of Californian households don’t have access to high speed internet or a computer,” said Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia. “Low-income, rural communities like the Imperial Valley are hit the hardest by this shortfall.”

“I highly commend Charter Communications’ efforts to close the digital divide in communities like ours,” Garcia said. “Their assistance programs will provide much needed connectivity to low-income families and seniors citizens.”

“These partnerships are bringing about true internet equality and bringing people once left out because of the lack on internet connectivity back into focus with the world around them. At the day’s end, AB 1665, it’s good for everyone like business, good for education, good for our health care system, good for our safety system and even the civic process. That’s why this piece of legislation really was a good deal for California,” said Garcia.

For more Information about Charter/Spectrum and their low-income assistance program, visit www.SpectrumInternetAssist.com or for a toll-free helpline dial 1844-525-1574

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