Assemblymember and former Winters Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry came one step closer to her goal of improving broadband service last month with the passage of “The Internet for All Act of 2021.” The law extends funding to improve internet access across California.
“Whether it’s Winters or another community, the internet is where we’re going,” said Aguiar-Curry.
As a co-author of the bill, Aguiar-Curry cites her work as mayor of Winters as one of the major inspirations.
At that time, “it was shocking that there was just no connectivity,” said Aguiar-Curry. As mayor she worked with the school board and developers to improve broadband service in Winters.
She said the collaboration of officials in Winters helped bring broadband to the area. “I think that the city council years ago realized the importance of our schools improving, the school district did.”
“If it wasn’t for them and people believing in education in Winters, we couldn’t have done it,” said Aguiar-Curry.
When she joined the state assembly, Aguiar-Curry’s “number one goal was to have internet for all in the state of California, particularly in rural communities.”
With the new funding, the state will build an open access, high capacity fiber line to carry data between local networks. It’s called the “middle mile.” Funding for the “last mile” will connect homes and businesses to local networks.
Last mile funding is available to cities like Winters so they can run their own projects. “Every city and county should be jumping on board and I’ve worked with all of them,” said Curry.
“Luckily having relationships here in Winters, I give them a heads up,” when funding is available.
Aguiar-Curry hosted a town hall meeting on the law on Nov 16. California Public Utilities Commissioner, Martha Guzman Aceves, cited Aguiar-Curry’s work in Winters as a blueprint for upcoming projects.
“It’s really exciting because the state is taking a really proactive role,” said Guzman Aceves.
Although Winters has served as a model, there is still work to do, said Aguiar-Curry. Now, the primary issue is making internet access more equitable and affordable.
“$39.99 might not seem like that much to you and me but if it prevents families from putting food on the table,” said Aguiar-Curry, “or the choice is between school connectivity and heating your home, that’s not fair.”
Aguiar-Curry encouraged local officials to “work regionally” and “keep their ears to the ground” so they can make the most of resources available from the state.
In addition to funding from the state, the American Rescue Plan and new infrastructure bill will provide further federal dollars. California is likely to receive upwards of 4 million dollars in additional funding from the federal government.