Boosted Wi-Fi availability bolsters state, university

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Illustration by Liz Coffee

Illustration by Liz Coffee

Two crucial bills sitting on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown will affect the everyday lives of about one-third of Californians.

Both SB740 and AB1299 will provide Californians with the tools and knowledge they need to become active users of the Internet.

SB740 will allow the state government to spend an additional $90 million drawn from consumer phone bills to expand the broadband infrastructure in rural areas. AB1299 will improve digital literacy. Both work in harmony to help citizens of rural areas get plugged into a rapidly-evolving Internet age.

The digital divide, a series of economic and geographic factors that isolate unconnected Americans from citizens who have access to the Internet, is a great travesty in our society. Millions of people in California — about 12.6 million — cannot access the Internet because of their location. These bills will change that.

By ensuring everyone in California has access to the single greatest resource in human history, these bills have the potential to give voice to every citizen, and encourage them to participate in the democratic process.

These bills will not only help these people with the personal and the professional parts of their lives, but the academic aspects as well.

Thousands of people who want to take online classes in remote urban areas will be able to obtain a college degree. This influx of qualified graduates has the potential to boost California’s economy through new hires and the creation of additional businesses.

And it’s not just rural academics that will benefit from increased internet access. It has real-world applications right here in Chico.

As Internet usage goes up and more young people throughout the state are equipped to graduate from high school, universities like ours will see more applications from people who live in every isolated pocket of the state.

It’s likely to make our student body more diverse, which will in turn enrich the educational experience for everyone who sets foot on campus.

With the passage of these two bills, the state has stepped up to help those Americans isolated from the general public.

Now it’s up to people living in these rural areas to step up and make the most of the new services provided for them. For California to function properly, they need to take an active role in learning how to use their newfound resources to contribute to their respective communities.

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