Provide leadership statewide to close the “Digital Divide” by accelerating the deployment and adoption of broadband to unserved and underserved communities and populations.
The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) has been established as a non-profit corporation pursuant to orders from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in approving the mergers of SBC-AT&T and Verizon-MCI in 2005. As a condition of approval of the mergers, AT&T and Verizon are required to contribute to CETF a total of $60 million over 5 years “for the purpose of achieving ubiquitous access to broadband and advanced services in California, particularly in underserved communities, through the use of emerging technologies by 2010.” AT&T will contribute $9 million per year and Verizon will contribute $3 million per year. The CPUC also directed that at least $5 million should be used for telemedicine projects.
The CPUC stated that CETF should adopt the goals of expanding adoption and usage of broadband technology in addition to promoting ubiquitous access: “We understand that without computers and computer literacy neither availability nor access will ensure use. It is low use that is at the heart of the digital divide. CETF should consider the possibility of public/private partnerships to develop community broadband access points that provide both.”
Initial Priority Focus
- Rural communities that lack the broadband infrastructure.
- Urban poor and disadvantaged communities that lack the computers and affordable connections to the Internet with relevant applications.
- Disabled populations that lack technology accessibility (which will be addressed in part by promoting universal design of all technology to be accessible and integrating accessibility into all efforts).
- Compile conclusions about best practices from research and results of pilot projects and demonstration programs. Consult the most knowledgeable experts and stakeholders.
- Identify and invest in strategic opportunities (based on sound research and proven track records) to achieve the highest impacts in eliminating the Digital Divide.
- Seek out projects that will achieve the strategic goals, not just be a responsive grant maker.
- Make initial investments in mid-2007.
- Hold funded programs and projects accountable for performance and outcomes. Publish regular progress reports.
- Measure the progress quantitatively in terms of status of the Digital Divide statewide and for priority communities and populations. Publish an annual report.
- Establish and institutionalize partnerships with civic leadership and community-based organizations. Develop regional strategies and collaboratives for bridging the Digital Divide.
- Establish a presence throughout California through “affiliations” with key institutions. There will be principal offices in at least the Bay Area and Southern California.
- Continue to encourage and monitor research to ensure efforts are directed at the most critical factors to bridge the Digital Divide.
- Leverage the initial seed $60 million by at least 4-fold to achieve impact of about $250 million through partnerships and co-investments with private sector, government and foundations.