Free, Publicly Owned Internet to End the Digital Divide
March 19, 2023


Whereas, the internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform in the history of the planet, and now connects nearly half of the world’s population in a globally distributed network; and

Whereas, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that access to the internet has become a critical part of our lives that we rely on to bring such information as employment/unemployment, emergency situations, health issues, local and international news, and participation in education, research, medical consultations, studying and working at home, entertainment, and our social life and cultural lives; and

Whereas, the pandemic showed how wide the digital divide is between those with access to high-speed internet and the tens of millions of people in the U.S. in mostly poor and non-white communities who can neither access nor the ability to afford the monthly internet fees are effectively locked out of the information-based economy we are moving into. Of the 50 million U.S. students who learned remotely at home during COVID-19, nine million lacked at-home internet access; and

Whereas, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the worldwide web in 1989, declined to patent the internet to ensure that it was freely available to everyone, and while the internet was a government-run network in the early days, the infrastructure of the internet was parceled out to private companies with little regard for users. The internet has become totally configured for private profit. Consequently, the number of internet providers at the local level is determined by market forces and most of the global infrastructure is owned by several large corporations. Google, Microsoft, and Facebook make up 70% of internet traffic, while Amazon runs one third of the internet; and   

Whereas, in California, in response to the fact that one in five people do not have reliable and affordable broadband internet, the state government began building the Middle-Mile broadband network in October 3, 2022 to bring affordable high-speed internet to every California home. However, under the program people will still have to pay a discounted monthly service fee and a copay on the $100 fee for a device to access the internet;

Therefore, be it resolved, that the CFT advocate that completely free, high-speed internet should be a public good available to every individual and household in California, just as public schools are universally available. To accomplish this, high-speed internet in California should be owned, managed, and run at cost by the state government and should include the public in decision making; and

Be it further resolved, that our position guide our union activity forward by providing a position paper to our members within six months of adoption of this resolution, and by reaching out to and networking with all organizations and members of the public who think California should have universal, free, public internet to build a coalition that will establish appropriate public policy to end the digital divide.

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  • Submitted by Civil, Human and Women’s Rights Committee