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LA's Getting Millions To Improve Internet Access. Significant Gaps Remain An Issue

A teacher in a yellow sweater talks to her students through Zoom.
Sylvan Park Early Education teacher Wendy Workman teaches via Zoom.
(Mariana Dale
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For many Angelenos, reliable, high-speed internet is a must, and it became even more vital during the pandemic. But while access isn't equal across Los Angeles, new funding from the state could help narrow the digital divide.

The money is coming from SB 156, which earmarks about $6 billion to help local governments improve broadband access, particularly in low-income communities where fewer people are connected.

L.A. is getting about $5 million, which will help pay for improvements to the city's existing internet infrastructure.

Miguel Sangalang heads the Bureau of Street Lighting, which is leading the local effort. He says there are big gaps in internet access in many low-income areas, especially along the 110 Freeway. Residents either can't afford it or simply can't get service.

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“You find percentages of up to 25% in some of our historic South L.A. neighborhoods,” he said.

The state funding will also help pay for computer labs at city parks and rec centers, public Wi-Fi, and digital literacy programs.

Disparities in access to the internet became stark when area schools pivoted to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early days of the school lockdowns, L.A. Unified officials estimated as many a quarter of students did not have reliable Wi-Fi at their homes.

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