On Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission largely adopted suggestions put forward by The Greenlining Institute to use $5 million from the California Advanced Services Fund to bolster Department of Education efforts to close the digital divide for California students.
The funding, estimated by Greenlining to be enough to fund about 16,000 laptops or internet hotspots, comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the gap in online access into an emergency.
“California’s lowest income households are 45% less likely to have home internet than the wealthiest, with Latino and African American students at a particular disadvantage,” said Greenlining Institute Technology Equity Legal Counsel Vinhcent Le.
“Simply put, this money means thousands of students will be able to continue their education,” Le said.
In March, with both K-12 and higher education moving online as a result of the pandemic, the commission asked for input as to how to use the CASF, originally created in 2007 to help bridge the digital divide, to help mitigate the crisis.
Greenlining and others urged that the most effective and efficient approach would be to use the money to expand existing efforts to provide laptops or hotspots rather than to create a new program.
The full text of the resolution can be found on the CPUC’S website.
Aside from the COVID-19 crisis, lack of home internet access continues to be a serious handicap for California communities of color and low-income residents.
A Greenlining report to be released later this month will look in detail at the experiences of Californians with no or limited home internet access.