Broadband consortium facing false reporting, contempt charges skids into CPUC hearing

19 August 2020 by Steve Blum
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For more than five years, the California Public Utilities Commission has wrangled with a consortium of five Los Angeles community organisations over a $450,000 grant that was supposed to be used to produce particular broadband education programs. Three of those groups were exonerated in tentative settlements reached with CPUC enforcement staff. Another agreed to pay a fine. But the fifth – Community Union – is contesting accusations of, among other things, “false claims”, “false reports”, “inadequate and incomplete” record keeping, and “adamantly” refusing to provide documentation to CPUC staff and to auditors from the state controller’s office.… More

In a first, Gonzales, California provides free, city-funded Internet service to every home, with unique two year T-Mobile deal

22 April 2020 by Steve Blum
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Every household in Gonzales, California can get free Internet access, courtesy of the City of Gonzales. So can families that live outside the city limits that have students attending school there. So far, more than 1,200 households of the approximately 2,000 households in and around Gonzales have taken up the offer. Gonzales students can get online and use school district-provided Chromebooks to keep up with their lessons, despite being locked down during the covid–19 emergency.… More

Two-thirds of California families say they need help getting their kids online

21 April 2020 by Steve Blum
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Some California students have access to the tools they need to keep up with lessons while locked down at home, but many, particularly those in low income households, don’t. That’s the finding of a survey of California parents conducted by the Education Trust West (h/t to Scott Lay at Around the Capitol for the pointer).

Kids don’t have the computers or tablets to do the word, and those who do can’t connect. Respondents said there are too few devices available in the home, only about third said that schools are providing take-home equipment to their kids.… More

CPUC antes up $5 million for student hotspots and laptops, but the pot’s not right yet

20 April 2020 by Steve Blum
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A plan to spend $5 million on mobile hotspots and inexpensive Chromebook-class laptops, for students to use at home while schools are shut down during the covid–19 emergency, is set for a 7 May 2020 vote by the California Public Utilities Commission. Comments on the draft resolution are due 27 April 2020.

The California Department of Education (CDE) would manage the money and target schools that have the greatest need.

The draft resolution and the original request from CDE are a bit vague on the definition of a hotspot.… More

Fabricated sales forecasts are a bad basis for handing out broadband “adoption” grants

4 January 2019 by Steve Blum
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The California Public Utilities Commission launched a new, $20 million taxpayer-funded broadband “adoption” program last year. It was included in the $330 million gift to Frontier and AT&T (and Comcast and Charter and…) that the California legislature approved in 2017. The CPUC isn’t setting a quantitative adoption target, and is simply acknowledging that “the number of subscriptions to broadband service has been growing annually in California and adoption will inevitably increase”. Instead, the program is built around digital literacy training, and free Internet access points and equipment.… More

Don’t confuse social services groups with ISP sales departments

2 August 2018 by Steve Blum
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It’s been a bad few weeks for so called broadband adoption programs in California. First, the shotgun marriage between Frontier Communications and the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) turned into a messy divorce, having only reached a tiny fraction of its “aspirational” target of 200,000 new broadband subscribers.

Then the California Public Utilities Commission launched an effort to recover $244,000 from a Los Angeles County adoption program, that was funded by a regional broadband consortia grant from the California Advanced Services Fund.… More

Broadband consortium accused of making “false reports”, CPUC wants $244,000 back

23 July 2018 by Steve Blum
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The California Public Utilities Commission began funding regional broadband development groups, AKA broadband consortia, in 2011. In rural areas, and some urban areas, the groups primarily worked on expanding broadband infrastructure. But in Los Angeles County, the focus was on broadband promotion – AKA broadband “adoption” – programs that aimed at getting more people to use – and subscribe to – Internet service.

One of those groups styled itself “California’s One Million New Internet User Coalition”.… More

California broadband adoption rate flat for 5 years

8 July 2017 by Steve Blum
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The in-home broadband subscription rate in California is the same now as it was five years ago, and the cost of service is the biggest barrier to adoption. That’s the top line result from an annual survey commissioned by the California Emerging Technology Fund. This year, the research was carried out by U.C. Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. It found that in 2017, 69% of Californian households are connected to the Internet via a “computing device”, which is the same rate as in 2013.… More

A smartphone is a poor, and the poor's, choice for broadband

16 January 2017 by Steve Blum
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If a smartphone was the killer Internet access solution that AT&T claims it is – usually when trying to divert attention from substandard or even non-existent wireline service in rural and inner city communities – then you’d expect to see something like an even spread of usage cases across demographic groups.

The Pew Foundation’s latest research shows that is clearly not the case.

Overall, 12% of U.S. adults own a smartphone, but do not otherwise use the Internet at home.… More

U.S. Internet use up, but age, income, education matter

14 January 2017 by Steve Blum

More people in the U.S. have broadband service at home than ever before, according to the latest numbers released by the Pew Foundation. After a couple of years where residential adoption dipped, it’s on the way back up, albeit unevenly…

Between 2013 and 2015, the share of Americans with home broadband service decreased slightly – from 70% to 67%. But in the past year, broadband adoption rates have returned to an upward trajectory. As of November 2016, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans indicate that they have broadband service at home.