While many residents of the North Bay take high-speed internet access for granted, this isn’t the case for those living or working in the region’s small, remote and rural communities. Many residents there eagerly await improved internet connectivity.

Fortunately, the Assembly members representing the North Bay, including Jim Wood, Cecilia Aguiar- Curry and Marc Levine, have introduced the Internet for All Now Act (AB 1665). This bill would deliver $300 million for new broadband infrastructure projects in California, money that would be well-spent bringing internet to unserved households, often in rural communities.

Currently, California’s goal, by law, is for 98 percent of the state’s households to have access to the internet. Across the state, about 96 percent of households have access to this service, which serves as a gateway to job opportunities, educational courses, government services and health care resources.

While private investment has delivered internet for the vast majority, policymakers now have a chance to help the remaining unserved areas, often with residents who feel forgotten. As was the case with rural electrification and the state water project, there are simply places in California that will only be connected with the help of public funding.

This bill would provide an important shot in the arm to an existing state program, the California Advanced Services Fund, which is in need of increased funds and some practical reforms.

This is an important bill at a critical time as technology now touches every aspect of our regional economy, everything from agriculture to recreation. As the Internet for All Now Act states, high-speed internet, “is essential 21st century infrastructure for economic competitiveness and quality of life.”

For area residents to gain the skills they need in our modern economy and for our businesses to compete on a statewide, national and global level, new internet infrastructure projects must be built in the coming years.

North Bay Leadership Council’s members have seen first-hand the economic impact and benefits of high-speed internet for business and communities. It links local businesses to many more customers and opens up new commercial opportunities. It provides more educational choices and access to better health care through technologies such as telemedicine, which makes online doctor visits possible.

Internet access is the all-important path to improving regional prosperity, education and economic competitiveness. It’s fundamental to our region’s future. That’s why the Internet for All Now Act is one of many smart policies needed to bring modern communications networks and deliver new opportunities to the North Bay and all California in 2017.

Cynthia Murray is president and CEO of the North Bay Leadership Council, an employer-led public policy advocacy organization.