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OCED Testimony Highlights Importance of Broadband Access in Meeting Greenhouse Gas Emission Goals

 

 

This month, OCED program director, Eduardo Gonzalez, represented the San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium in Sacramento at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) public hearing regarding the Third Investment Plan for the Cap-and-Trade Auction Proceeds. The Third Investment Plan for Fiscal Years 2019-2022 is intended to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the San Joaquin Valley to help meet the State of California’s adopted goals. OCED provided public comments on the importance of access to broadband (a generic term for high-speed Internet service that includes both wireline and wireless technologies) to assist the State in meeting the GHG emission targets. Eduardo’s testimony explained how closing the Digital Divide and promoting Digital Inclusion supports and aligns with the priorities in the Draft Third Investment Plan and, therefore, should be recognized as a California Climate Investment Program in the final 2019-2022 Investment Plan. 

Eduardo emphasized that the focus for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) on disadvantaged communities and low-income households are the same priorities for closing the Digital Divide as set forth by the Legislature and Administration, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), CETF, the San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium, and Digital Inclusion community-based organizations (CBOs) throughout California.

Additionally, Eduardo added that the Draft Third Investment Plan for the Cap-and-Trade Auction Proceeds and GGRF investment priorities align with Digital Inclusion strategies, for example: 

 

  • Transportation:  To reduce congestion and improve mobility, the best trip is a “virtual trip” because it has no direct impact on the environment and clearly is low carbon systemically. Internet connectivity between rural and urban medically-underserved communities and medical centers enables telehealth-telemedicine, reducing trips for outpatient follow-up visits by as much as 40%. High-speed Internet connectivity is essential for online college courses and to support long-distance learning, which is especially vital for disadvantaged communities and low-income households who have fewer resources to access education and workforce training. Thus, having all communities connected with high-speed Internet infrastructure advances the investment priorities for transportation.  

 

  • Energy:  To improve energy efficiency the State and energy utilities promote peek demand management through load dispatch in the built environment, which requires Internet connectivity. However, unconnected and underconnected low-income households are not able to participate in such energy efficiency programs, incentives or rebates. Less than half of low-income households signed up for the CARE programs administered by investor-owned utilities (IOUs) have email addresses and are not able to receive information about energy efficiency programs or pay bills online, often requiring trips to the utility to pay bills with cash. Generally, the IOUs have been reluctant to fully embrace this strategy and need encouragement from the CPUC (and their Low Income Oversight Board) and CARB.   

 

  • Natural Resources:  To optimize management of natural resources, particularly water use, Internet connectivity is required infrastructure. Unconnected and underconnected rural communities and low-income urban neighborhoods cannot participate in water-use efficiency programs managed with information or controls dependent on the Internet.

 

  • Agriculture To optimize resource use and maximize production for agriculture, emerging “AgTech” requires sensors in the fields with a wireless signal. AgTech holds much promise for conserving water, determining fertilizer needs, increasing crop production, and accessing external markets. Further, many agricultural communities also are disadvantaged communities with high percentages of low-income households. However, most of California’s very productive farmlands are not connected to a high-speed Internet network.  

 

  • Resiliency:  To protect public safety, facilitate quicker recoveries from natural disasters and other emergencies, and support increased resiliency of vulnerable communities and fragile population segments, high-speed Internet networks are required throughout the state. The majority of county fairgrounds (state assets) used for staging emergency responses and evacuations have no permanent high-speed connectivity. Research, communication networks, and data analyses that could better inform fighting wildfires (which cause huge amounts of GHG and other air pollutant emissions) cannot be applied because of the lack of connectivity. And, employers (particularly small businesses) and fragile communities cannot quickly recover because of the lack of ubiquitous broadband.