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Western Caucus holds Rural Broadband hearing in Bakersfield

Rural broadband
Posted at 5:38 PM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 21:16:48-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Members of the Western Caucus, Ag, and Internet professionals met at Mechanics Bank Arena for a Federal subcommittee hearing regarding broadband infrastructure.

  • According to data from the Public Policy Institute of California, 95% of Californians have access to internet, 85% have access to broadband internet, but only 71% of rural Californians have access to broadband.
  • At a Federal Communications sub-committee hearing on Friday, people affected by California's digital divide and congressmen who represent people all over the country affected by it gave testimony to the committee.
  • 23ABC spoke with Terranova General Manager Don Cameron and District 22 Congressman David Valadao, who both noted the advancements in technology inside the Ag space warrant high-speed internet for rural Californians.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

When was the last time you went without internet?

For many in urban and suburban spaces, connectivity is easy to come by, but out in rural areas, that's not always the case.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, a record-high 95% of Californians had access to internet—including satellite—at home in 2022. When looking at rural communities, that number drops a few percentage points to 92%, and when it comes to broadband it drops even further to 71%.

But what is broadband? According to Xfinity, which markets consumer cable television, internet, telephone, and wireless services, broadband Internet uses multiple data channels to send large quantities of information.

Don Cameron, General Manager for Terranova Ranch was one of the four people that testified on Friday. In his eyes, as the world progressively gets smarter, so has farming, which means internet connectivity needs to keep up.

"The hope is that we will have high-speed internet, the money that's being allocated will get to the last mile, that will get to the farm and we will be able to join the rest of the world with high-speed internet," said Cameron.

In turn, the federal government is putting money towards bridging that digital divide, but all across the country, the question now is how that money gets spent.

As part of a series of field hearings put together by the Western Caucus, a federal subcommittee heard testimony in Bakersfield from people who have dealt with the digital divide in California. The discussion ranged from how the money will be disbursed, what technology should be used, and a collection of positives and negatives about the plan.

"Agriculture's technologies developing at a rate that we've never seen before," said David Valadao, 22nd District Congressman. "It does so much to lower the cost of food, increase the efficiency of the water and the resources that we put into those fields, but also make us a more reliable food supply for the nation. So it's a big deal for us, we're excited about the opportunity. We just have to make sure we're there for them.

Currently, the California Public Utility Commission has submitted drafts of its plan to implement the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, their first volume was approved by the NTIA early last month.


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