The South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG) is launching the Digital Equity Project to create a “roadmap” for improving broadband access in historically disadvantaged communities of the South Bay.

The SBCCOG recently received a $498,949 Local Agency Technical Assistance (LATA) grant. Through this funding, it will work with a technical consultant to identify broadband gaps and needs in communities where data has revealed socioeconomic disadvantage, which has led to a lack of broadband investment and infrastructure. Targeted areas include Carson, Gardena, Hawthorne, and the West Athens-Westmont area of unincorporated Los Angeles County. It will also inventory public and private broadband assets and resources throughout the entire South Bay.

The project will expand a phase one effort started in 2020 to improve broadband access to the subregion. The SBCCOG began work on a dedicated fiber-optic network called the South Bay Fiber Network (SBFN). Phase one is a middle-mile fiber optic ring that connects key anchor institutions, including city halls and regional public agencies, to high-speed carrier grade broadband. It runs through a combination of existing leased fiber network capacity, while adding approximately 15% through new fiber construction. The project was completed at 25% the cost and 20% of the time all-new construction would have required. A public-private partnership made creation of the award-winning network possible.

By December of this year, the Digital Equity project will generate a “shovel-ready” phase two plan South Bay agencies can use to expand the SBFN. The envisioned expansion will provide high-speed, low-cost internet connectivity to small businesses and microbusinesses in these communities to help bridge the digital divide. •