Poway Newsom communications
Work began Thursday near Poway on the first leg of a 10,000-mile-long broadband network for improved internet access. Officials flank Antonio Villaraigosa, Gov. Newsom’s infrastructure adviser, as they view the cable. Photo credit: @CAGovernor via Twitter

Work began Thursday near Poway on the first leg of a 10,000-mile-long broadband network intended to provide enhanced internet options to everyone in the state.

“California is now one step closer to making the digital divide a thing of the past,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “We’re starting construction today to get affordable high-speed internet in every California home because livelihoods depend on access to a reliable and fast internet connection.

“This is about ensuring that all Californians, no matter the ZIP code they call home, can be part of the Golden State’s thriving and diverse economy,” he said.

Work on the “Middle Mile” network started on state Route 67, where on Thursday state officials gathered as 500 feet of fiber-optic cable was blown through conduit in the first segment of the $3.8 billion statewide project.

When completed, it will be the nation’s largest such broadband network, officials said. Then state funding will be made available for “last mile” connections from the network to rural communities.

According to the governor’s office, roughly one in five Californians do not have access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet, including more than 200,000 people in San Diego County.

“Beginning construction on the ‘Middle Mile network is a significant step toward broadband equity and providing all Californians the opportunity to access critical information,” said California Transportation Agency Secretary Toks Omishakin. “High-speed internet is much more than a connection – it’s a lifeline that families need to work, learn and access critical services.”

The fiber-optic line that began to be run Thursday will reach from Lakeside to Ramona. Once the network is complete, local carriers will have access to the network to provide communities with direct service to homes and businesses. That includes reduced-cost or free broadband service for those who qualify.

In July 2021, Newsom signed Senate Bill 156 to expand the state’s broadband fiber infrastructure and increase internet connectivity for families and businesses. The bill included provisions related to the $3.25 billion initially budgeted to build, operate and maintain an open access, state-owned “Middle Mile” network.

The 2022 Budget also included $550 million to support the project.

City News Service