Originally, AB 41, the Digital Equity in Video Franchising Act of 2023 (DEVFA), updated and reformed the Digital Infrastructure & Video Competition Act (DIVCA) of 2006, to meet the needs of California communities left on the wrong side of the digital divide. However, the recent amendments have stripped AB 41 of its equity, anti-discrimination, and equal service provisions – central principles of the original bill and provisions crucial to solving the digital divide and providing broadband service to households and communities that have been digitally redlined. The amendments not only threaten the regulatory, budgetary, and policy momentum in the digital equity space made over the last couple of years but may actually serve to set California’s efforts to provide affordable, high-quality broadband service to all back 20 years. For these reasons, we, along with our digital equity coalition partners, have taken the regretful yet necessary position to now strongly oppose AB 41.
When the Digital Infrastructure & Video Competition Act (DIVCA) of 2006 was passed it was expected to increase competition between cable and internet service providers and, as a result, improve broadband access, enhance service quality, and reduce prices. After 17 years, the evidence is clear: DIVCA has failed to deliver on these promises. Today, millions of households across California still lack access to fast, reliable, and affordable broadband services and overall competition has actually decreased in certain areas of the state.
“AB 41, as amended, makes California franchise policy worse for communities, worse for localities, and even harder for the state to address the digital divide. Much like DIVCA before it - which, for over seventeen years, has failed to produce the more competitive, thriving market for broadband service it promised - DEVFA will move the state further from digital equity with these amendments.”
Access to and facility with the internet is a requirement to engage in today’s world. Work activities, school classes, job applications, and medical appointments all demand reliable high-speed internet. Every Californian deserves access to fast, reliable, and affordable internet, and to have the opportunity to learn how to effectively navigate the digital world. We believe a fast connection without bandwidth or data limitations, coupled with technical support, is a civil right—not a luxury.