June 22, 2023
Contact: Countywide Communications at email@example.com
LA County Is Helping Residents and Communities Bridge the Digital Divide
Investments of nearly $78 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding are expanding equitable access to technology and the internet with free programs and new infrastructure
Los Angeles County is accelerating efforts to bridge the digital divide and bring technology and new infrastructure into traditionally disadvantaged communities, particularly those most heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supported by nearly $78 million in resources from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), County departments have launched or expanded a series of programs that provide residents with ready access to laptops, WiFi, training and more.
All 85 Los Angeles County Libraries are providing daily free public use computers and the option to borrow laptop and hotspot kits for internet access for free for up to 6 weeks through the Laptop Lending program. The Library also recently launched a Work Ready program that offers free support for job seekers, including use of a laptop and access to virtual events covering topics ranging from writing a great cover letter to identifying high-growth careers. Free tutoring and online learning activities are also available for families. While people can access the internet through their cellphones, cellular data plans can be expensive. Access to free WiFi lessens the financial burden and is available through the Library’s Park & Connect program.
The Department of Parks and Recreation has also launched a WiFi at Parks program, which patrons are using heavily. Data shows that the top 10 locations where people access WiFi in the parks are primarily low-income, revealing that for some park patrons, park access may be their primary source of internet connectivity. With the support of ARPA funding, 22 new parks will receive WiFi and access will be expanded in 14 existing parks. As of June 2023, 9 sites are deployed and an additional 27 are planned by June 2024.
Thanks to these programs, anyone who lacks reliable internet service at home and has a Wi-Fi enabled device can get connected with ease within 25 feet of many LA County libraries and parks—with more to come!
In addition, the Internal Services Department (ISD) is offering a series of programs to help residents explore opportunities in computer and information technology industries and also provides direct access to job opportunities and free online training courses to earn technology certifications. Free computer assistance and digital training for community members and small businesses is available through Digital Assistants who are in libraries across the county. Digital Assistants are ready to assist in person with tech support and accessing online resources, digital literacy training and other basic computer assistance. ISD’s Small Business Connections initiative helps businesses get online to grow their sales through technology and offers a free digital marketing assessment and one-on-one consultation.
Through its Delete the Divide program, ISD has increased enrollment in the federal benefit Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides a discount of up to $30 per month to eligible households to help cover internet subscription costs. ISD’s community outreach and collaboration with community-based organizations have helped lead to a 45% increase in ACP enrollments from July 2022 to June 2023.
To support more permanent solutions to the disparity in internet access, ISD is also investing in community broadband networks to connect families to fast and reliable internet service at home. The first phases of the program focus on neighborhoods where more than 20% of households lack internet access.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted disparities in technology access nationwide and here in Los Angeles County. In LA County, it is estimated that approximately 265,000 households do not have a home computer, 311,000 households have access to the internet only through their cellphones, and 416,000 households have no access to the internet at all.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is helping the County to bridge this gap with vitally needed funding. These resources are part of $1.9 billion in ARPA funding being used to support programs to assist disproportionately disadvantaged communities throughout Los Angeles County.