Construction began Thursday in rural San Diego County on the first stage of the 10,000-mile broadband network aimed at bringing high-speed internet service to all Californians so they can access emergency information, telehealth services, education and employment.
“California is now on the verge of making the digital divide a thing of the past,” Governor Gavin Newsom said. “We are starting construction today to bring affordable high-speed Internet access to every California home, because livelihoods depend on access to reliable, fast Internet connection. This is to ensure that all Californians, regardless of their zip code, can be part of the Golden State’s thriving and diverse economy.
Construction began Thursday on State Route 67 near Poway in San Diego County, where Newsom administration officials gathered as 500 feet of fiber optic cable was blown through a conduit in the first segment of a massive $3.8 billion statewide project known as the “Middle Mile” broadband. network.
The planned network, which will be the largest in the country, will span the entire state to help provide reliable high-speed Internet access to the millions of Californians who currently do not have it.
When completed, funding for “last mile” efforts will support “middle mile” line internet connections to homes and businesses, as well as efforts to ensure that individuals can afford broadband service where it already exists.
About one in five Californians lack access to reliable, affordable high-speed Internet.
California Transportation Agency Secretary Toks Omishakin, Government Operations Secretary Amy Tong and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa marked the occasion in Poway, at the site of a new fiber optic line that will run from Lakeside in Ramona. More than 200,000 people in the San Diego area do not have broadband service.
“Beginning construction of the Mid-Mile Network is an important step toward broadband equity and provides all Californians with the ability to access critical information,” Secretary Omishakin said. “Broadband internet is more than a connection – it’s a lifeline families need to work, learn and access essential services.”
“We are excited to see construction begin on the middle mile network,” Secretary Tong said. “Too many rural and urban areas lack adequate broadband infrastructure, forcing residents to attempt to connect via mobile hotspots and unreliable satellite service, which excludes too many Californians.”
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was appointed by the governor in August to serve as California’s state infrastructure adviser, joined the event Thursday to highlight substantial federal resources coming to the state for infrastructure investments like broadband networks.
“This broadband network is one of California’s most ambitious and impactful infrastructure projects – and we’re excited to have construction underway starting today,” Mayor Villaraigosa said. “With billions more federal infrastructure dollars on the way, we are about to celebrate many more advances for innovative projects across California. It goes far beyond infrastructure, it’s about building the future of our state and creating thousands of well-paying jobs along the way.
CDT Director Liana Bailey-Crimmins said construction of the first segment of the Middle Mile network follows more than a year of planning.
“Rapid planning by the Middle Mile team as well as our local partners is coming to fruition,” Bailey-Crimmins said. “It’s wonderful to see the hard work pay off, to make a difference in the lives of Californians who live in unserved areas like this.”
Caltrans Director Tony Tavares said each of the department’s 12 districts is working to build segments of the Middle Mile system on an ambitious schedule in hopes of capturing the maximum federal funding available.
“This project provides us with a wonderful opportunity to ‘dig in smart’ and demonstrates the benefits of coordination between state agencies and with our local partners,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “Caltrans is proud to partner with the Department of Technology to create a Middle Mile Broadband Network, bringing equitable broadband service to all Californians.”
Once the Middle Mile Network is completed, local operators will have access to the network to provide communities with direct service to homes and businesses as well as reduced cost or free high-speed Internet service for those who are eligible.
In July 2021, Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 156 sponsored by pro Tempore Senate Speaker Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon to expand the state’s broadband fiber infrastructure and increase Internet connectivity for families and businesses. It includes provisions related to the $3.25 billion originally budgeted to build, operate and maintain an open-access public Middle Mile Network – high-capacity fiber lines that carry greater amounts of data at higher speeds over longer distances between LANs. The 2022 budget bill provided an additional general fund of $550 million to support the Middle Mile Broadband Initiative.
Broadband access in California received an increase in federal funding in 2021 with the passage of the US Federal Bailout Act and the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, both aimed at helping the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through vast investments in infrastructure. including affordable high-speed broadband access for individuals, families and communities so they can work, learn and connect remotely.
Californians interested in whether they qualify for the discounted high-speed internet services available now can find out more from the state. Broadband for All Website.
The design and construction of the Middle Mile Network is overseen by the Middle Mile Advisory Committee with expertise from GoldenStateNet, the state consultant. For more information and interactive maps depicting the 10,000 mile system, please visit the Middle Mile Broadband Initiative website.