Much of the Eastern Sierras region between Carson City, Nevada and Barstow, California is dependent on decades-old telephone infrastructure and has limited, insufficient broadband middle mile capabilities, leaving wide swaths of the Central Valley and eastern California unserved. The California Broadband Cooperative’s Digital 395 Middle Mile project proposes to build a new 553-mile, 10 Gbps middle-mile fiber network that would mainly follow U.S. Route 395 between southern and northern California. In addition to 36 municipalities, the project’s proposed service area encompasses six Indian reservations and two military bases. More than 230 community anchor institutions would be directly connected at speeds of 10 Mbps, with 2.5 Gbps and higher-capacity fiber-based services offered to the region’s last mile providers to expand or enhance service to households and businesses.
The Broadband Awareness and Adoption project of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) proposes to increase adoption of broadband in vulnerable and low-income communities in Los Angeles, the Central Valley, Orange County, San Diego, and the Inland Empire. CETF has identified key populations with low broadband adoption rates and developed partnerships with organizations uniquely qualified to reach out to each of these populations. Working with these partners, CETF plans to coordinate a targeted media campaign, bolstered by outreach from trusted ambassadors and grassroots mobilization, to reach 5 million multi-lingual residents. CETF intends to provide digital literacy training for more than 678,000 low-income individuals, including more than 300,000 youth. The project expects to increase household adoption of broadband in these high-priority, low-income communities by more than 133,000 households.
In the six regions of California targeted in this project by the California Emerging Technology Fund, high unemployment coupled with lagging residential broadband use create the need for broadband tools to help people develop information technology (IT) skills, digital literacy, and improve job placement. The project proposes to place unemployed residents in IT-industry jobs by providing outreach, training, and services to at-risk youth, English as a Second Language individuals, public housing residents, the homeless, and people with disabilities.
Qualified low-income persons will be able to earn laptop and desktop computers by graduating from a broadband training curriculum designed to create community broadband adoption ambassadors. To measure adoption and workforce development outcomes, CETF will utilize its own web-based standardized assessment tools to track the progress of all partners and participants, allowing for robust data collection and rapid performance monitoring and evaluation.
State Broadband Capacity Building:
This funding will support new staff who will work to execute recommendations of the California Broadband Task Force through the new California Broadband Council, a state-led body to be comprised of the state executive and legislative branches, and the California Emerging Technology Fund. Council staff will coordinate the activities of disparate state agencies, provide outreach to local governments, and implement policies and programs to promote broadband deployment, usage, and application use throughout California.
The project will collect, display and update location and service information of computer refurbishment centers across the state. In addition, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will research additional broadband information, such as the location of training centers, and BTOP and BIP-funded projects, indicating the type of project, e.g., sustainable adoption, computer center, middle mile, last mile.
Programs to Improve Computer Ownership and Internet Use:
In partnership with California State University-Chico, the CPUC will support outreach and technical support to develop and implement a broadband adoption strategy specifically targeting Native American tribes, Rancherias and communities in California. This support will provide ongoing technical assistance and consultation to address planning and development issues related to the implementation of Internet service within tribal communities.
Wireless Application Development:
This funding will support the California Wireless Broadband Performance and Coverage Tracking Study. The CPUC will conduct an integrated, independent, comprehensive, open-source mobile wireless network testing and reporting system that covers all mobile wireless networks in the state and fairly reports performance and coverage as an honest broker. The open-source nature of this project can serve as a model for other governments to replicate.
Data Collection, Integration, and Validation:
This project was originally funded for broadband planning activities and two years of data collection. In September of 2010, this project was amended to extend data collection activities for an additional three years and to identify and implement best practices.
According to a June 2009 report by the Public Policy Institute of California, Internet and broadband use has increased in all regions of California except for the Central Valley, where 49 percent of households cannot access high-speed service. Current broadband infrastructure in the region is largely inadequate to meet the needs of local community anchor institutions. In response to this situation, Central Valley Independent Network (CVIN), along with its project partner, Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), intends to deploy a 1,371-mile fiber backbone network through 18 Central Valley counties. The network, consisting of 720 newly constructed miles of fiber and the leasing of 164 miles of dark fiber, will provide Internet backbone service to Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Fresno, Kings, Kern, Mariposa, Merced, Madera, Nevada, Placer, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Tulare, and Yuba counties. In addition, the project will construct 12 new wireless nodes in order to deploy WiMax last-mile service to the rural portions of Fresno, Tulare, Kings, and Kern Counties.
According to a 2009 study conducted by the City and County of San Francisco, only 42 percent of seniors in the city currently subscribe to broadband, and only 61 percent of those who define themselves as African American or Latino do so. Both figures are much lower than the citywide rate of 82 percent. The City’s Departments of Technology; Aging & Adult Services; and Children, Youth & Families, along with several other key partners in the nonprofit, educational, and for-profit sectors, propose to provide broadband-oriented training to seniors, adults in residential treatment, low-income and ESL youth, and other economically and socially vulnerable groups. The project intends to include an online support group for seniors via partner TYZE.com and collaborate with digital media nonprofit groups to provide training in digital media and dissemination of local user-generated digital content in ways that encourage broadband adoption.
The Los Angeles Computer Access Network project proposes to expand and upgrade 188 public computer centers at libraries, workforce centers, parks, and youth and family centers in low-income and non-English- speaking communities in the city of Los Angeles. The city expects to purchase 2,741 new computers, including 2,609 workstations and 132 laptops. The majority of the 188 proposed centers will be located in or within three miles of federal and state designated “Enterprise Zones.”
Broadband’s ability to expand educational and employment opportunities is especially meaningful for Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing, a community that faces unique challenges in education and that suffers from a rate of unemployment much higher than the national average. Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. (CSD) intends to expand broadband adoption among people who are deaf and hard of hearing and provide them with online tools to more fully participate in the digital economy. The project proposes to employ a combination of discounted broadband service and specialized computers, technology training from an online state-of-the art support center customized to the community’s needs, public access to videophones at anchor institutions from coast to coast, and a nationwide outreach initiative. Thousands will gain online access to all the Internet has to offer, including sign language interpreters, captioned video services, and other content and functionalities designed especially to advance their educational, employment, and healthcare interests.
Computers for Youth Foundation, Inc. (Computers for Youth) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) plan to expand a successful pilot program to increase broadband technology awareness and usage among an estimated 34,000 low-income individuals and 15,000 households. The project plans to target sixth- grade students and their families to help students succeed academically and increase family involvement in children’s education through computer and Internet tools. Students and their families will participate in four-hour weekend workshops that provide computer training in English and Spanish, after which they will receive a refurbished computer with educational software. Nearly 8,000 households are anticipated to become new broadband subscribers as a result of this project.
The AccessAmerica Video Remote Interpreting project plans to install 81 new videoconferencing stations, and enhance the user experience at 19 existing stations that serve individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing in Northwest Louisiana, and sites in Alabama, California, and Texas. The project intends to use broadband and videoconference technology to provide on-demand, cost-effective sign language interpretation at a total of 100 community partner sites, including community anchor institutions such as hospitals, courts, public safety agencies, shelters, schools, and libraries. Each state-of-the-art video conferencing unit is expected to connect to trained American Sign Language interpreters working at a central call center or otherwise remotely.
The Foundation for California Community Colleges, in partnership with community colleges and other learning centers across an 18-county region in the Central Valley, plans to provide outreach, training, and learning support to increase digital literacy skills and broadband adoption, especially among low-income Hispanic residents in the region.
The project plans to distribute laptops to roughly 5,800 socioeconomically disadvantaged students currently enrolled in the Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program at local community colleges. The equipment will help encourage and enable broadband adoption among students and their families, many of whom have not previously seen the need or had the resources to acquire computers, learn computer skills, or connect to the Internet. The project intends to track both the increase in library and public computer center use as a result of the program as well as household subscribership figures for MESA students.
The Transforming Neighborhood Network Centers for Job Creation and Broadband Access project plans to expand and enhance the services of five public computer centers located in public housing developments in San Bernardino County, California. Currently, the computer centers are open only to public housing residents and Section 8 recipients, have extremely limited hours, and receive slow Internet service. With this grant, the centers expect to add 25 new computer workstations (an increase of 50 percent), open to the general public, increase broadband speeds at each center, and extend operating hours to 60 hours per week. In addition, the project will provide three types of training for public housing residents, low income populations, children, and the general public: basic computer literacy workshops, 9-week long workforce skillbuilding courses, and in-depth online occupational training.
The Expanding Broadband Access Across California project proposes to build 11 new access points on Level 3’s existing broadband network to enable last mile providers to offer affordable high-speed services to underserved areas. The additional points of interconnection will offer broadband speeds between 50 Mbps and 10 Gbps on an open and nondiscriminatory basis to last mile Internet service providers. Similar to on-ramps to the interstate highway system, these points of interconnection will enable last mile providers to transport data to the Internet backbone and provide affordable service to anchor institutions, homes, and businesses. The project could enhance broadband capabilities for as many as 240,000 households, 9,900 businesses, and 240 anchor institutions, including schools, government agencies, and healthcare providers.