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FCC Looking To Close Digital Divide: 21 Percent Of Californians Either Have No Internet Or Still Use Dial Up

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— California is slowly closing the digital divide, but a new survey shows millions of Californians still rely on dial-up Internet service or aren't online at all. The federal government is looking to change that.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) votes Thursday on expanding the Lifeline Program for low-income consumers from just telephone service, to include broadband as well.

That may be hard for those who are digitally-wired and tech-savvy in the Bay Area to believe, but the divide is even worse in Southern California where millions of people are lacking in modern day Internet service.

According to a new Field Poll commissioned by the non-profit California Emerging Technology Fund, 13 percent are not online at all and eight are still using dial-up connections.

"We've made steady progress in getting more people online, but what we've recognized is the sobering fact that those who are not online are the very poor," said Foundation President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak.

She said the 21-percent lacking high-speed broadband access also includes Spanish-speaking families; seniors and the disabled mainly because they can't afford Internet service or don't own a computer or smart phone.

"We need digital literacy. You can't be online unless you have a device. You still need to have some digital literacy and understanding of how to use it and be able to purchase that device," McPeak said.

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