Last November the LA County Board of Supervisors quietly and unanimously approved a project that could dramatically reshape affordable Internet access in the largest county in the United States. While success will require coordination at an unprecedented scale to avoid the mistakes of the past, this new effort has momentum and funding options on its side.
The newly approved plan first aims to deliver wireless broadband to the 365,000 low-income households in Los Angeles county that currently don’t subscribe to broadband service, starting with a 12,500 home pilot project. But the vote also approved a new feasibility study into a Los Angeles county-wide municipal fiber network.
The motion tasked the LA County Internal Services Department, directed by Director Selwyn Hollins, with coordinating the effort. Hollins in turn is working with the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Street lighting (which had already received a CBDG grant to help fund local Wi-Fi networks) and other regional city agencies already engaged in digital divide efforts.
Sources familiar with project planning say it’s too early to specify pricing and speeds, but one goal is to be able to provide symmetrical 100 Mbps service for $30/month. As with other communities (like Fort Pierce, Florida), the county then hopes to layer on the $30 discount from the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program to ensure costs are negligible for low income residents.
The Covid crisis, as it did across countless U.S. communities, not only placed a bright spotlight on the overall lack of affordable broadband access across the Los Angeles area, organizers say it has galvanized unprecedented momentum...Read more