California Businesses and Organizations To Support State’s Distance Learning And Bridging The Digital Divide

Tri-Community NewsPlus

Governor Gavin Newsom today announced new cross-sector partnerships to support the state’s distance learning efforts and help bridge the digital divide.

“School may be physically closed, but class is still in session,” said Governor Newsom. “But for class to be in session, it is imperative that California addresses the inequities in access to computers, technology tools, and connectivity to ensure that online learning can in fact reach all of California’s children. It’s inspiring to see parents, teachers, businesses, and philanthropy step up to meet this moment and provide tools to help bridge the digital divide and get more students connected.”

Approximately one in five students in California lack high-speed Internet or an appropriate computing device at home. In a parent survey two weeks ago, 50 percent of low-income families and 42 percent of families of color reported that they lacked the laptop, Chromebook, or tablet needed to access distance learning.

Earlier this month, Governor Newsom issued a call to action to business, government, and community leaders to help bridge the digital divide. Leaders across sectors stepped up to heed the call.

First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, State Board of Education President Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond led are leading the drive for community leaders to heed the Governor’s call to action.

Companies, business leaders, and philanthropists heeded the call by committing to provide Internet access for hundreds of thousands of households and over 70,000 laptops, Chromebooks, and tablets for students.

  • T-Mobile is donating 13,000 tablet devices, in addition to the previously-announced 100,000 hotspot devices (for which they partnered with Google.)
  • Amazon is donating 10,000 tablet devices.
  • Apple is actively working with 800 districts across the state, offering free coaching sessions to teachers to help them with the transition to remote learning. In addition, Apple is offering special pricing for iPads with cellular and has given the equivalent of 9,000 iPads to ensure the most vulnerable in our state have access.
  • Verizon is partnering with the State of California to provide 250,000 students with unlimited Internet service at a discount.
  • The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative is donating $1,000,000.
  • Jack Dorsey (via #startsmall) is donating $1,000,000.
  • Ann & John Doerr are donating $10,000,000.

The California Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Education will partner to distribute a total of $30 million to support connectivity.

The CPUC will make $25 million available from the California Teleconnect Fund for hotspots and Internet service for student households. School districts will be able to apply to receive 50 percent discounts on the cost of hotspot devices and on monthly recurring service charges until September 30, 2020. Rural, small, and medium-sized districts will be prioritized.

The CPUC is also proposing to make $5 million available from the California Advanced Services Fund to help cover the costs of computing and hotspot devices. Low-income communities, communities with high percentages of residents with limited English proficiency, and communities with high percentages of residents with limited education attainment will be prioritized.

The California State Transportation Agency is partnering with the City of Sacramento for a 60-day proof of concept to be launched on May 1, 2020. Seven transit buses will be repurposed and outfitted with super hotspots providing connectivity with at least a 500-foot radius. Buses will park between 4-8 hours to provide high-speed Internet services to surrounding locations while people remain in homes or congregate at safe distances while under supervision. Lessons learned from the proof of concept will be converted into a model for cities throughout California to replicate.

Photo by J. Kelly Brito

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