For over five years, the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium has advocated for broadband equality so families can access the internet.
JASON OLIVEIRA: ABC 30 is taking action to share more of the stories that matter to you and make a positive impact for our community. That includes the efforts of a local consortium, which is made up of more than two dozen central California colleges and universities. They're working to ensure the Central Valley gets a fair share of the $100 billion broadband investment President Joe Biden has proposed, as well as state funding for high speed internet. Action News reporter Elisa Navarro shows us how they're taking action to give students equal opportunities.
ELISA NAVARRO: For over five years, the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium has advocated for broadband equality so families can access the internet, regardless of where they live.
BEN DURAN: Then the pandemic came, and it literally shed light to the point where everything we had been saying and what the research had been showing had literally come to fruition.
ELISA NAVARRO: That fueled the group even more to find a solution. They created this video and sent it out to lawmakers and anyone else who could help make a difference for local students.
BEN DURAN: When we're talking about the students in the Central Valley, we're talking about all. For us, all means all. Everyone means everyone.
ELISA NAVARRO: Ben Duran says a lack of a strong broadband signal has been especially challenging for those living in rural communities.
BEN DURAN: There will be poles and wiring that will go out, and it literally stops, right? Because that's as far as the internet service providers could go.
ELISA NAVARRO: 21-year-old Veronica Mendez from Madera is one of many students who rely on the internet outside of school. She's currently a Fresno Pacific University student and also works in the fields, where her hotspot isn't always reliable.
VERONICA MENDEZ: And I knew that if my Wi-Fi or my hotspot didn't work, I was going to be missing some class material that could be really valuable. So it was just really stressful.
ELISA NAVARRO: Mendez says, while she made things work for the most part, she feels for others who have faced even greater struggles.
VERONICA MENDEZ: A lot of my peers had more challenges than I did. I would be so happy to know, you know, that more students could find, like, that peace of mind.
ELISA NAVARRO: A goal, Duran says, can be reached if they continue shining a light on the reality of broadband disparity throughout the Central Valley.
BEN DURAN: It's so important for us to convey to our legislators that the Central Valley is poised and ready to bring in this infrastructure and provide access to all.
ELISA NAVARRO: A project that would break a barrier for hundreds of students and set them up for success. Elisa Navarro, "ABC 30 Action News."