SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and leaders serving on the Closing the Digital Divide Task Force on Friday will ask major internet service providers to report on their progress and commitments made to date to expand services for the state’s most vulnerable students and families.
Task force members Friday will also receive an update on devices and hotspots acquired, as well as pledged donations to date, as the task force accelerates efforts to close gaps in access to technology. Although tens of thousands of devices and hotspots have been shipped to schools across California, the CDE estimates more than 700,000 computing devices and more than 300,000 hotspots are still needed to meet students’ needs moving forward.
Additionally, during Friday’s hearing, the California Public Utilities Commission will present on the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming multibillion dollar Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction, an initiative to bring high speed fixed broadband service to rural homes and small businesses that lack it.
Friday’s task force hearing will be broadcast on Zoom and Facebook Live on the California Department of Education (CDE) Facebook web page starting at 1 p.m.
The task force, co-chaired by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), has held multiple hearings since its formation in April and has asked that internet service providers including Comcast, Cox Communications, Frontier Communications, T-Mobile, and Verizon expand free and discounted services to all California students, including those living in poverty and rural households.
During the task force’s latest hearing in May, Thurmond and members heard testimony from advocates for students living in urban and rural areas who described continued inequities that stand to put California’s most at-risk learners further behind. During the hearing, representatives from internet service providers were asked to respond to concerns raised, including limited or no service in specific zip codes, “free” internet offers that require costly long-term contracts, mandatory deposits, and other constraints to access.