We think fast Internet service should be like water and power — an affordable utility found in every home. Further, we believe it should be viewed as an economic right: in the 21st century, every San Franciscan should have Internet access at home. But many do not.
Here, in the heart of the technology world, more than 100,000 San Francisco residents do not have access to the Internet at home, including 14 percent of our public school students. By not guaranteeing Internet access, we are leaving the next generation of San Franciscans further behind. We need to fix this.
How can we expect our residents — especially the poor, seniors, and minority communities who are most affected by this digital divide — to compete in the 21st century if they do not have access to the Internet at home? How do we train them today for the jobs of tomorrow? How do we ensure digital literacy, close the academic divide between students with Internet access at home and those without (called the “homework gap” by the Federal Communications Commission), and ease senior isolation without ensuring Internet access at home?
For two years, San Francisco government officials have been doing the work behind the scenes necessary to solve these problems.
In March 2016, the city released a first-of-its-kind economic report evaluating different options for San Francisco to develop a municipal fiber network and ensure every resident and business access to fast and affordable Internet. What if we told you that it was possible for San Franciscans to have a phone line and faster Internet at home than one has today for $26 a month? This report proved that it’s possible.
How do we ensure that every San Franciscan has access to fast and affordable Internet? We advocate and organize for it.
That’s why Wednesday (Feb. 15), we will publicly announce San Franciscans for Municipal Fiber. This coalition will be a community voice to provide input, feedback and guidance to San Francisco leaders toward meeting the goal of delivering fast and affordable Internet service to every resident and business in San Francisco.
The coalition will meet over the coming months and work with city leaders to establish the priorities and values that all of San Francisco’s diverse communities deserve to receive from a municipal fiber network.
How do we ensure that the 14 percent of children in San Francisco public schools who lack Internet access are prioritized? How do we ensure that formerly homeless and low-income tenants can afford service? Can we help ease the social isolation of seniors by providing low-cost Internet combined with digital literacy services? These are the type of questions that the coalition will take on.
San Francisco has led the way for California and the rest of the country on advancing equal rights, universal health care, and improving the environment. Cities of similar size that have tried to deliver on this vision and goal have been met with stiff opposition at every turn. We can lead the way on delivering the 21st century utility to every San Franciscan — Internet access at home.
Mark Farrell is a member and Eric Mar is a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Internet access for everyone. Join San Franciscans for Municipal Fiber today to ensure fast and affordable Internet service for every San Franciscan.