CETF 2016 Survey of Local Government Officials
Finds Broadband Is Highly Connected to Community Well Being and Economic Development
Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA—November 16, 2016—Following on its 2016 Annual Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) reached out to County, City and School District officials to better understand their views on broadband and found that 77% view high-speed Internet as “very important to the future economic prosperity and quality of life in their jurisdiction.”
Among the 250-plus respondents to the survey, the majority were city officials representing jurisdictions of 10,000-49,999. Sixty percent were elected officials and 50% represented rural communities—areas where the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimated per an April 2016 report that only 43% of rural households have access to reliable broadband service.
Other findings in the CETF 2016 Survey of Local Government Officials included:
- 73% report broadband is very important to their jurisdictions’ small and large businesses
- 53% report their low-income residents are not connected at home to broadband
- 63% report broadband is a very important issue to residents
- 57% report that schools are very able to provide computing devices and broadband in classrooms
- 22% report that schools always allow students to take home computing devices to do homework
- 65% report their jurisdiction would benefit greatly from telehealth-telemedicine technology and capabilities
- 78% report broadband availability and speed are neither very high nor very low
- 71% report their jurisdiction is fairly advanced in providing information and services online
- 71% report their jurisdiction uses electronic communications quite often to reach residents
- 55% report their workforce is prepared to use computing and Internet navigation skills to fill available jobs
- 36% report that broadband is very adequate for public safety and emergency responses
“These findings provide further evidence that it is vital the Legislature pass the Internet For All Now Act, which CETF will promote in the next legislative session,” said Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO of CETF. “This legislation is essential to replenish the California Advanced Services Fund, the only source of state assistance to close the Digital Divide in California and level the playing field for those excluded from our digital economy.”
Among the individual comments to the survey were:
Timothy Stearns, Mt. Shasta City Council Member (Siskiyou County): “The State should provide matching funds to enable rural California cities to provide to residents, businesses, healthcare providers, schools, libraries and public safety providers Internet speeds comparable to what is available in metropolitan cities throughout this nation.”
Lee Adams, Sierra County Board of Supervisors Member: “Every home in California with electricity should have broadband.”
Judy Morris, Trinity County Board of Supervisors Member: “Please do not let rural California fall further behind in educational, health and economic development opportunities.”
John M. Vasquez, Solano County Board of Supervisors Member: “Broadband is the highway of now and the future, it will not only bind the nation but the world.”
Peter Lacques, Fairfax Town Council Member (Marin County): “We have a huge demand which our jurisdiction can’t fill due to capital costs. We need a regional JPA to acquire and administer a fiber optic network for all our residents:
Jeffrey Collings, Mt. Shasta Mayor (Siskiyou County): “Stop talking about it; actually do something. Low population density towns that have high costs per household to rollout fiber need funds for a ‘down payment’ on our public private partnerships. About 30% from the State with the balance from the City will work. Private companies (ATT, cable, etc.) cannot and will not make this investment, as the breakeven is way too high relative to realistic take rates and prices for services. Do for broadband what government did for electricity; it's a utility subject to public regulation. Get it.”
Alan Peterson, Merced Union High School District Superintendent (Merced County): “We need to provide Internet to all of our students so they can overcome social and geographical boundaries.”
John Huerta, Jr., Greenfield City Council Member (Monterey County): “To Policymakers: Please assist rural communities who do not have access to broadband for economic, educational and service upgrades for our growing communities. “
Benjamin Picard, Sunnyvale School District Superintendent (Santa Clara County): “Broadband is a right and a necessity for an educated and competent electorate.”
About the California Emerging Technology Fund
The mission of CETF is to close the Digital Divide. The overall goal is to reach 98% of all California residences with broadband infrastructure and to achieve 80% home broadband adoption by 2017 (with no region or demographic group less than 70% adoption). CETF is technology neutral: “broadband” is a generic term for high-speed Internet access—wireline and wireless Internet service is faster than a dial-up connection. CETF drives to achieving these goals through public awareness and education, grantmaking to community organizations, and advancing public policy. For more information, please visit www.cetfund.org.
San Jose Mercury News
By Michelle Quinn | August 1, 2016
At first glance, the latest data on California's digital divide looks like amazingly good news.
A whopping 84 percent of Californians now have access to broadband internet at home, up 9 percentage points since 2014, according to a new Field Poll.
At that rate, the digital divide -- the gulf between the information haves and have nots -- could be wiped out in less than three years.
But most of those gains have come from increased smartphone use. In the past year alone, there's been a near doubling -- from 8 percent to 14 percent -- of state residents now online because of smartphones. Meanwhile, the percentage of Californians connecting to the internet via a laptop or a desktop has remained flat for several years.
"That is the biggest problem," said Mark DiCamillo, director of The Field Poll, which conducted the survey for the California Emerging Technology Fund, a nonprofit focused on broadband deployment and adoption.
The Internet For All Now Act (AB 1665) was introduced in the California State Legislature on February 17, 2017 by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia with joint and co-authorship from Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Chris Holden, Kevin McCarty, David Chiu, Susan Eggman, Kevin Mullin, Anna Caballero, Mike Gipson, Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Jose Medina, Eloise Gómez Reyes, Blanca Rubio, and Jim Wood. AB 1665 authorizes additional collection of funds into the California Advanced Services Fund, to provide high-speed Internet access to all Californians.
The California Emerging Technology Fund is making the following recommendations for AB 1665:
- Authorizing $50 million per year for 10 years for total additional funding of $500 million into CASF.
- Maintaining funding priorities for last-mile, unserved households to achieve the Legislature’s goal of 98% deployment and promise to rural California.
- Recognizing the need for cost-effective, middle-mile with “first right of opportunity” for incumbent broadband providers to help meet the goal.
- Transitioning CASF support to higher speeds (25/3 Mbps) after the 98% goal is met in order to remain competitive and align CASF with FCC new speed goals.
- Ensuring that $100 million is used to help those on the wrong side of the Digital Divide learn how to improve the quality of their lives through training and adoption.
- Allocating $10 million to the California Telehealth Network to leverage more than $21 million from the FCC Healthcare Connect Fund to get Californian’s fair share.
- Ensuring that the most disadvantaged residents living in publicly-subsidized housing will be online and able to participate in the Digital Economy to get out of poverty.
- Providing proven project management tools for the CPUC to enhance efficiency and effectiveness: project management; value engineering; grants management.
The California Emerging Technology Fund's rationale for the bill is as follows.
Social and Economic Justice for Californians in the Digital Age
Today, high-speed Internet (broadband) access is essential for homework, employment applications, job training, health services, and civic activities. Yet 16% of Californians do not have high-speed Internet at home and 14% connect to the Internet only through smartphones. Too many low-income, rural, and disabled Californians are disenfranchised from our Digital Economy because of cost and lack of access. (Source: 2016 Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, Field Research Corporation)
The California Legislature’s goal of 98% broadband deployment in 2017 has not been met for many rural communities. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reported that only 43% of rural households have access to reliable broadband service. (Source: California Advanced Services 2015 Annual Report)
The California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) was established in 2008 by the Legislature and CPUC to close the Digital Divide. CASF provides: grants and loans for deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas; grants to regional consortia to advance broadband deployment, access, and adoption; and grants to public housing for access and/or adoption activities. Over the last 9 years, the Legislature has authorized a total of $315M into CASF by collecting a few cents per month on phone bills.
Only the Legislature Can Authorize Collection of More Funds into the California Advanced Services Fund
The Legislature established the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) in 2008, and authorized $315 million to be collected over the past 7 years, from a small fee on phone bills, to support deployment of broadband into unserved and underserved areas to help close the Digital Divide. CASF has funded 57 projects and reached over 300,000 households. Nevertheless, CASF is out of money for infrastructure deployment with 14 pending projects. CASF has funded 54 projects to reach 304,555 HHs at an average CASF subsidy of $461 per HH and total average cost of $1,385 per HH. CASF is clearly cost-effective compared to the FCC Connect America Fund 2 average subsidy in California of $2,550 per HH. CASF is out of money for infrastructure deployment with 14 project applications pending and more in the pipeline. CASF is the only source of support for broadband unless the Legislature enacts a new fee or tax or does a General Fund budget allocation.
By Martha Escutia
The Los Angeles Region is an amazing epicenter of talent, artistry and innovation. But it also is ground zero for closing the Digital Divide. Fortunately, we have visionary leaders who are behind a triad of opportunities that will result in a huge win for digital equity.
Right now, almost a quarter of Los Angeles residents are stuck on the wrong side of the Digital Divide—not able to fully contribute to our creative vibrancy and economic vitality. According to a California Emerging Technology Fund Field Poll, the Los Angeles Region lags behind the state average for connected residents at home, with 76 percent of households online and 10 percent having only a smart phone to access the Internet. While smart phones are marvelous technologies for mobile access, they are insufficient for students to do their homework, inadequate to help adults acquire workforce skills, and hard to use by people with certain physical disabilities. Further, while the Los Angeles Region is 27 percent of the state’s population, 33 percent of California’s low-income people and students on free-or-reduced lunch reside here.
All of this means that there is a concentration of poverty, which must be tackled with all available strategies and tools—including affordable high-speed Internet service. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and the California Legislature must act now to ensure all residents get connected to “broadband,” as high-speed Internet is called, so that they can participate in the Digital World. This is a 21st-century civil right.
Los Angeles leaders have taken a major role in fighting for digital equity. The Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution introduced by President Herb Wesson and signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, calling upon the FCC to adopt an affordable Internet access rate called “Lifeline” and to encourage companies to partner with community organizations, schools, and libraries as “trusted messengers” to get low-income households online. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors under the leadership of Chair Hilda Solis unanimously approved a similar position, followed by a unanimous vote by the Los Angeles Unified School Board at the urging of President Steve Zimmer. Our State Legislators, led by Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker–elect Anthony Rendon, both native Angelenos, have headed up a delegation of officials to underscore the need for all residents—including and especially the most disadvantaged—to be brought into the Digital Age. Los Angeles and California are speaking historically with a united voice and it is time for the FCC to act—the first element in the triad of opportunities.
Until the FCC approves and makes operational an affordable broadband Lifeline program, the CPUC must ensure that affordable broadband is a public benefit secured out of the pending application by Charter Communications to acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks—the second element of the triad. This corporate consolidation will result in the second largest broadband provider in the country; the CPUC must require Charter to step up to contribute to digital equity, as AT&T, Comcast and Frontier have done already.
Finally, major legislation has been introduced in Sacramento called the Internet For All Now Act of 2016, which will provide essential policy and resources to finish closing the Digital Divide in our Golden State. This Act prominently plants the flag for California as a global leader in digital equity. Our Los Angeles State Legislators leaders hold the key to passing this legislation—the third element in the triad.
This is the triad for digital equity being constructed in the Los Angeles Region. The FCC, CPUC, and California Legislature have the power in their hands to ensure all residents get online now to (1) approve Broadband Lifeline, (2) secure a significant public benefit from Charter, and (3) pass the Internet for All Now Act. We must ensure that everyone has the 21st -century civil right to Internet access—because access delayed is access denied.
Martha Escutia represented Los Angeles County in the California State Senate from 1998 until 2006 and served in the California State Assembly from 1992 until 1998; she was chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications and was the first woman chair of the California Legislative Latino Caucus. Currently, she is vice president of government relations at University of Southern California.
Opportunity for All? Rutgers University Report Finds Lower-Income Families Under-Connected to Digital Economy
The first-even national report on digital connectivity of low-income parents with school age children finds that 23% of households with annual incomes under $65,000 do not have home Internet, resulting in educational, economic and civic inequities. The report, “Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower Income Families” by Rutgers University Professor Vikki Katz and Victoria Rideout, confirms many findings from the June 2015 CETF/The Field Poll study. Katz and Rideout underscore:
“The information and resources available on the Internet are now integral features of daily life for most Americans. Searching for employment and filling out job applications; researching the availability of government services; looking up health information, providers, and insurance options; learning how to fix a home appliance; mapping public transportation routes: these tasks are part and parcel of day-to-day life. Being connected to the Internet has become all the more essential as helpful resources for accomplishing these tasks have migrated online.”
Katz and Rideout’s survey of 1,191 parents also revealed:
Most low- and moderate-income families have some form of Internet connection, but many are under-connected, with mobile-only access and inconsistent connectivity.
-Among families who have home Internet access, half (52%) say their access is too slow, one quarter (26%) say too many people share the same computer, and one fifth (20%) say their Internet has been cut off in the last year due to lack of payment.
-Among families with mobile-only access, three in ten (29%) say they have hit the data limits on their plan in the past year, one-quarter (24%) say they have had their phone service cut off in the past year due to lack of payment, and one fifth (21%) say too many people share the same phone for them to be able to get the time on it that they need.
Families headed by Hispanic immigrants are less connected than other low- and moderate-income families.
-One in ten (10%) immigrant Hispanic families have no Internet access at all, compared with 7% of U.S.-born Hispanics, 5% of Whites and 1% of Blacks.
-Four in ten (41%) Hispanic immigrant parents report mobile-only Internet access, compared with 25% of Blacks, 16% of Whites and 17% of U.S.-born Hispanics below the median income.
The main reason some families do not have home computers or Internet access is because they cannot afford it, but discounted Internet programs are reaching very few.
-Four in 10 parents without a home computer (40%) or home Internet access (42%) say the main reason they do not have these items is because they are too expensive.
-Only 6% of those with incomes below 185% of poverty (a common eligibility level for discounted service) say they have ever signed up for low-cost Internet access through programs specifically for lower-income families.
Katz and Rideout offer the following conclusions:
“Our study makes clear that the primary obstacle preventing greater equity in access and digital
participation—at least among families with school-aged children—is financial. … And currently, only a small proportion of families are benefiting from discounted Internet services designed to get low-income families with school-age children online.
The authors further argue, “[W]e believe that the challenges to connectivity that our study has showcased are solvable. Policymakers can address these issues with well-crafted policies that promote the right incentives and supports for families. … [This] will require innovative partnerships and new commitments aligning government, industry, education, and community leaders—including families themselves.”
Click here to read the full report.
Testimonies From Our Supporters
CETF and Partners Call on Comcast to Join Effective Public-Private Partnership to Get All Californians High-Speed Internet at Home
CPUC Proposed Decision would expand who qualifies for Comcast affordable Internet service, hold Comcast publicly accountable for new subscription goals
San Francisco, CA and Los Angeles, CA – March 12, 2015 – Comcast, whose merger with Time Warner Cable is currently under review by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), this week released new numbers citing growth in subscriptions for its affordable $9.95 a month Internet Essentials home service offered to low-income families with school children.
The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and its partners have first-hand experience with Comcast Internet Essentials program. For nearly four years, we have been actively engaged helping guide low-income families through the cumbersome and time-intensive sign-up process for the program, which has been rife with well-documented problems that Comcast has been slow to fix. At the current subscription rate cited by Comcast, it would take the company another 9 years to reach all of the California families that are currently eligible for Internet Essentials in its pre-merger territory. If the merger is approved, 87% of all school children on free-or-reduced lunch in California (more than 1 million students in Los Angeles County alone) will reside in Comcast territory.
Comcast announced March 10 that Internet Essentials has reached 20% of eligible families in California. CETF research based on California Department of Education data shows that 496,521 California households with students on free-or-reduced lunch are currently eligible for Comcast Internet Essentials in its current territory. Based on Comcast’s announcement that it has signed up 61,596 California households in nearly four years, that leaves 434,925 eligible households, meaning the company has reached 12.5% of currently-eligible families.
CETF has helped fund community organizations, including 2-1-1 California, Latino Community Foundation, Chicana Latina Foundation, Office of Community and Economic Development CSU Fresno, YMCA Long Beach, and Eden Housing among others, that work in the trenches with the most disadvantaged populations to help them understand the value of the technology, learn how to use it, and sign up for Internet service. These trusted messengers also provide critical opportunities for these families to access very low-cost or free computers and Digital Literacy training, which is required for sustainable adoptions. Comcast makes much smaller donations or pays membership fees to organizations that largely do not work in the field of Internet adoption. Underscoring the commitment and patience required to sign up a household, experienced community organizations report that it takes 6 to 7 interactions to help a family address all the questions and concerns to overcome the barriers to subscribing to high-speed Internet service.
Much of the adoption work provided by community based-organizations is supported by CETF grants, and these partners also bring match funding from other entities with a related purpose, including federal government grants. United Ways of California, for example, has integrated its broadband adoption work with its information referral service, a strategy that was developed by United Ways of California and CETF to gain federal funding in the wake of a successful CETF pilot project with LA 2-1-1.
The undercounting of eligible families and claimed penetration rate by Comcast underscores why the company should meet the requirements in the Proposed Decision issued last month by the CPUC Administrative Law Judge, if the CPUC is to approve its merger with Time Warner Cable and trade service territories with Charter Communications. Specifically, the judge has proposed conditions for merger approval that would require Comcast to reach 45% of all eligible low-income households in its newly combined California service territory. The conditions also require Comcast to spend $275 per household on outreach, Digital Literacy training, and assisting eligible households to enroll for the Internet Essentials program.
Comcast has told the CPUC that these requirements are “unrealistic” but the experience of CETF and its partners show it is achievable with a sincere public-private partnership. CETF has submitted legal documents to the CPUC stating that the performance goal of 45% is doable if: (a) Comcast resolves the problems with the Internet Essentials sign-up process and advertises effectively to reach the target populations; (b) Comcast participates as a sincere partner with advertising and a well trained call center; and (c) Comcast contributes $275 per household to an independently-managed statewide fund for affordable adoption programs.
“The Proposed Decision is a significant and tangible public benefit for Californians. Fortunately, the CPUC has an established tradition of forging sound public policy to close the Digital Divide and we urge the CPUC to seize the opportunity by the proposed corporate consolidation to refine and adopt the requirements in the Proposed Decision when they are scheduled to vote on the merger on March 26,” CETF President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak said.
She added, “CETF and our partners call on Comcast to join an effective public-private partnership to close the Digital Divide in California, and we stand ready to work with Comcast and all interested community-based organizations. There is no substitute for the innovation and efficiency of the private sector when engaged as sincere partners motivated to achieve explicit goals. Effective public-private partnerships can significantly leverage public benefit resources for a higher return on investment to taxpayers and ratepayers.”
For more information, please visit www.InternetForAllNow.org
For a list of the more than 120 organizations supporting recommendations for closing the Digital Divide, please visit bit.ly/1EAL2Xj
California Public Utilities Commission Judge Recommends Approval of Comcast-TWC Merger and Requires Major Expansion of Low-Cost Internet Program
Proposed CPUC decision requires Comcast to offer affordable Internet service to all low-income households, enroll 45% of eligible households in 2 years
San Francisco, CA – February 16, 2015 – The presiding Administrative Law Judge at the California Public Utilities Commission on Friday issued a proposed decision for approval of the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Inc. but requiring significant public interest conditions that were requested by the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), a non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the Digital Divide in California. CETF urges the full Commission to approve the proposed decision with a yes vote on Thursday, March 26, 2015, after comments are received on the decision by parties. Among the highlights:
- Comcast shall expand eligibility for its $9.95 a month Internet Essentials service to all households in its post merger service area with incomes equal to 150% of the federal poverty level or less. This program is currently limited to households where there is a K-12 schoolchild on the free or reduced lunch program. The minimum broadband speeds offered shall be 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload, and Comcast shall provide a free Wi-Fi router to all program enrollees, so more than one device can access the Internet, especially tablets that are provided at low or no cost by numerous California school districts.
- Comcast shall enroll at least 45% of eligible households in the Internet Essentials program within two years of the merger date, subject to some an exception in areas where the general broadband penetration rate is lower than 45%. Comcast shall submit an Internet Essentials plan to the CPUC in 90 days after the merger and for 5 years annually thereafter, with specific cost details (with minimum amount of $275 allocated per eligible household for adoption), process improvements to speed program enrollment and reduce wait times, and Wi-Fi options for multiple users in a household.
- Comcast is encouraged to cooperate with the California Emerging Technology Fund and other community-based organizations with significant experience in marketing and outreach to low income communities in California.
- Within four years, Comcast shall connect and/or Internet infrastructure for K-12 schools and public libraries in unserved and underserved areas in the post merger service territory in the same proportion as it provides high speed access to households in the service territory. These school infrastructure plans including expenditures shall be developed with the CPUC, California K-12 High Speed Network, the state Department of Education and State Board of Education, and must be submitted to the CPUC for approval, and an annual report filed.
- Within two years of the merger, Comcast shall upgrade facilities to make broadband services available to all California households where the merger applicants currently provide only video service, and such services must be at speeds of 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. Within five years, Comcast shall make broadband services available throughout its service territory at 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, to confirm with the new definition of minimum broadband speeds set by the FCC last month.
- For five years, Comcast shall offer all customers of the merged companies stand-alone broadband service, at a speeds, prices and terms at least comparable to the price charged by Time Warner Cable prior the merger’s closing.
- No later than three years following the merger, Comcast shall build at least ten new broadband facilities that are adjacent to or near areas that Comcast currently serves by broadband in California. A plan for these new infrastructure builds shall be submitted to the CPUC within 90 days of the merger.
"Historically, the CPUC has been the leader among state regulatory commissions in addressing the Digital Divide and promoting broadband infrastructure and adoption throughout our diverse state,” said CETF President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak. “We urge the five CPUC Commissioners to approve the proposed decision without weakening the conditions -- as Comcast has indicated it will lobby the Commission to do -- and with adding the expertise and knowledge that each Commissioner brings to close the Digital Divide.”
She added, “The input from the California Public Utilities Commission will be valued by the FCC. We encourage the FCC to seize this opportunity to immediately use its merger review process to assure a widely-available affordable broadband rate for all low-income households. A similar FCC decision will be regarded as a watershed decision that transforms the ability of all persons - not just those who can afford it -- to participate in the Digital Age.”
For more information, please visit www.InternetForAllNow.org
Initiative urges FCC to seize ‘unique opportunity’ to require ISPs under merger review to expand discount service to low-income households
San Francisco, CA – December 10, 2014 –More than 100 national and California organizations and school districts are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require companies to improve and expand affordable home Internet service as a condition of approval for corporate consolidations. The group is launching a nationwide online movement, Internet For All Now, to serve as a public education initiative and encourage people to contact FCC Commissioners with recommended strategies (video) for using the review process to close the Digital Divide.
Participating groups include EveryoneOn, the YMCA (Long Beach and East Bay chapters only), Salvation Army (Pico Union chapter only), Access Living – Chicago, Florida Minority Reinvestment Coalition, California Seniors United, Glide Memorial Church, Latino Community Foundation, The National Disability Rights Center, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, Radio Bilingüe, Youth Policy Institute and school districts/county offices of education in Detroit (MI) and San Mateo County (Silicon Valley), Santa Ana and Fullerton (CA), among others.
Current Internet discounts offered by Comcast, whose proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is under FCC review, now only apply to families with students eligible for free- or reduced-lunch under the National School Lunch Program. “We have seen students and their families blossom when they get Internet at home for the first time, and we think such opportunities should be made available to more low-income households,” said Zach Leverenz, CEO of EveryoneOn, a national non-profit organization working to eliminate the Digital Divide through partnerships with industry, non-profits, libraries and others. “Too many low-income people – including job seekers, older students, seniors and people with disabilities – can’t afford full-priced Internet and often they can’t reach their fullest potential without it.”
Hugo Morales, Founder and Executive Director of Radio Bilingüe and a member of the California State University Board of Trustees, said “Federal law says there must be a finding of public benefit to approve the proposed Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable. This review process provides an opportunity for the FCC to hold Comcast accountable to improve its Internet Essentials program and achieve acceptable performance. In 3 years, Comcast has signed up only 14% of the eligible households in California and the nation. That is 46,000 households in California. At that rate, it would take another decade for Comcast to reach just half of the currently-eligible population.”
Organizations active in some of the least connected parts of the country are involved in the Internet For All Now initiative. A recent analysis of U.S. Census American Community Survey data found:
- Detroit has among the very highest percentage of households in cities of more than 50,000 without a fixed broadband connection, at 57%. (Fixed broadband is an FCC definition that includes direct Internet access through DSL, cable modem, fiber-to-the-home or satellite accounts but does not count mobile devices or dial-up). Detroit Public Schools is a member of the Internet for All Now initiative.
- In East Los Angeles, 51% of households have no fixed broadband. Several non-profit organizations working to integrate technology in teaching and learning in Los Angeles public schools (the second largest school district in the nation) are active in the initiative.
- In Fresno, 42% of households have no fixed-broadband, and the initiative counts Fresno County’s First Five Commission, which focuses on early childhood development, among its members.
- In Richmond, California, 40% of households do not have fixed broadband, and a leading city non-profit, Building Blocks for Kids, is involved in Internet For All Now.
“The FCC wants something specific as a public benefit, not the iffy Comcast program that is here now and does not perform well,” said Rita Walters, a former member of the Los Angeles Board of Education. “If Comcast were as magnanimous as they would have you believe, the company would jump in and say ‘let’s set goals, let’s make it better, let’s reach all who need it’. That’s not what we hear from them.”
In 2010, the FCC adopted the National Broadband Plan with the goal to connect 90% of the nation to high-speed Internet at home by 2020. “Progress has been made, but we have hit a ‘wall of poverty’,” said Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund. “This initiative urges the FCC to seize a unique opportunity to require ISPs under merger review to expand discount service to low-income households in their service territories, if the deals are to be approved. We commend the more than 100 groups and counting that are standing up to tell the FCC that we will not tolerate leaving one-quarter of our nation’s poorest residents – 80 million people – on the wrong side of the Digital Divide. ”
Internet For All Now is asking people to email the FCC with five recommendations for the Commissioners to consider requiring of companies, should the mergers be approved:
1. Expand offer to ALL low-income households.
2. Enroll 45% of eligible households in the next 2 years.
3. Donate to independent funds for non-profits, libraries, and schools to sign up households.
4. Report to an oversight committee.
5. Offer Internet Essentials as a stand-alone program.
Comcast Doesn’t Want To Improve Its ‘Internet Essentials’ Program For Low-Income Consumers
February 16, 2015
With Comcast’s $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable nearing the finish line, you’d think the company would be willing to do something as insignificant as make promises to improve its broadband program for low-income users. You’d be wrong.
As part of its deal to acquire NBC Universal back in 2011, Comcast convinced regulators that it would create a broadband program for lower-income Americans to help them get online in a world where Internet access is increasingly important.
Since that program, dubbed Internet Essentials, launched, it’s been criticized by consumer advocates as little more than window-dressing that erects up too many barriers to entry and provides too few benefits for subscribers.Read more