Bridging the Digital Divide

Universal Service

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) administers six legislatively mandated programs to ensure safe, reliable, affordable, and universal access to telecommunications services. These programs connect Californians to essential services such as public safety, public health, and education.

California Advanced Services Fund (CASF)

Provides grants and revolving loans to bridge the “digital divide” in unserved and underserved communities in rural and urban areas (PU Code Sec. 281). AB 1299 created an additional account under the CASF called the Broadband Public Housing Account to support projects to deploy local area networks and to increase adoption rates in publicly supported housing communities. Funding is provided through $20 million from the CASF Broadband Infrastructure Account and $5 million from the Revolving Loan Account. Application requirements and guidelines were adopted by the Commission in December 2014.

EAH Applied For/Awarded Grants at: 23 Properties

  • Alameda County (1)
  • Contra Costa County (5)
  • Fresno County (2)
  • Marin County (6)
  • San Francisco County (1)
  • Santa Clara County (8)

EAH Housing continues to make every effort to expand free internet access for the communities we serve.

Computer lab in Dublin, CA

Digital Divide

Background Information

“With many educators pushing for students to use resources on the Internet with class work, the federal government is now grappling with a stark disparity in access to technology, between students who have high-speed Internet at home and an estimated five million families who are without it and who are struggling to keep up. The challenge is felt across the nation. Some students in Coachella, Calif., and Huntsville, Ala., depend on school buses that have free Wi-Fi to complete their homework… ‘This is what I call the homework gap, and it is the cruelest part of the digital divide,’ said Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the commission who has pushed to overhaul the Lifeline program. Ms. Rosenworcel cited research showing that seven in 10 teachers now assign homework that requires web access. Yet one-third of kindergartners through 12th graders in the United States, from low-income and rural households, are unable to go online from home.”

“Notably, just under half of households in the bottom income quintile use the Internet at home, compared to 95 percent of households in the top income quintile.”

“So if you’re a student and you don’t have Internet access at home, that means you could be struggling to type papers or do online homework assignments, or learn basic computer skills, or try to get help from your teacher.  You may have to wait in long lines at public libraries or even in parking lots at the local McDonald’s just to try to get digital access.  And what that means is you’re not learning the critical tech skills required to succeed in tomorrow’s economy. And this has consequences.  A lot of you have heard about the achievement gap, how some kids in certain groups consistently lag behind, and the opportunity gap, where certain groups have a tougher time getting attached to the labor market.  Well, this starts with a ‘homework gap’ for a lot of young people, and an ‘access to learning’ gap, which then can translate into a science gap or a math gap, and eventually becomes an economic gap for our country.”

-President Obama, July 2015

“Cost is by far the single biggest factor preventing those without Internet connectivity at home from going online. Of those without Internet access at home, three in four (74%) cite its expense or not having a computer or smart phone as a reason for not being connected, and 39% say this is their main reason. Only 2% of all residents are not interested in broadband service, confirming that the vast majority of Californians do want to participate in the digital world.”