IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Draft Resolution T-17770 - which sets forth proposed eligibility criteria and administrative processes for the Digital Divide Grant Program - will be on the Commission’s October 6, 2022 meeting agenda.

    
The Digital Divide Grant Program will provide four grants of up to $250,000 each to help fund projects to combat the digital divide. Eligible projects will serve a beneficiary school located in an urban or rural low-income small school district. The beneficiary school must have a free lunch participation rate of at least 50 percent. Projects may address physical gaps in local broadband networks, affordability, access to personal devices, and digital skills training. Projects must provide a holistic solution including, but not limited to: student home broadband connection, student required hardware (e.g., laptop, notebook and/or hotspots), student curriculum focused on the use of technology, software to enable distance learning for student and teacher, and training for teachers in the use of technology for distance learning.

Grant recipients must be a non-profit community-based organization (CBO) with a demonstrated record of work to address the digital divide. The CBO will work with a partner public school or district to deploy the project, with the public school or district being the beneficiary of the project. 

Refer to the following documents for additional information on the proposed eligibility criteria and administrative processes for the Digital Divide Grant Program:


BACKGROUND

Public Utilities Code Section 280.5, enacted in 2003 by AB 855 (Firebaugh, Chapter 820, Statutes of 2003), established the Digital Divide Grant Program and requires the Commission to award grants to fund digital divide programs. The Digital Divide Grant Program is funded by a percentage of fees collected from the lease of certain state-owned property to wireless telecommunications service providers for wireless telecommunications facilities, pursuant to Govt. Code Section 14666.8. As of September 2022, the Digital Divide Account maintains a balance of about $1.2 million dollars that can be used to fund projects.

On September 18, 2020, the Commission initiated Rulemaking 20-09-001 (the “Broadband for All” proceeding) to set the strategic direction and changes necessary to expeditiously deploy reliable, fast, and affordable broadband. Phase One of the proceeding concluded on October 25, 2021, resulting in Decision 21-10-020. The decision delegated to the Communications Division staff the authority to approve grants from the Digital Divide Account that meet the criteria set forth in Ordering Paragraph 7 and Pub. Util. Code § 280.5.