- San Jose, CA is accepting applications for $1 million worth of community grants intended to improve digital equity for all residents by increasing internet access and skills.
- Applicants must be an educational institution, public agency or 501(c)(3) that provides services to San Jose residents in areas such as education, workforce development, homelessness, or other social services. The organization must already be — or would like to be — addressing San Jose residents' digital needs.
- This is the first round of funding disbursed by the Digital Inclusion Partnership, a collaboration of the City of San Jose, the San Jose Mayor's Office of Technology & Innovation and the California Emerging Technology Fund. The partners provide grants through the Digital Inclusion Fund, established earlier this year to assist with closing the city's digital divide.
The partnership operates under the premise that access to the internet is a basic human right. Indeed, internet access increasingly is viewed as an essential utility, yet citizens do not have the same protections and guaranteed access as with legacy utilities such as electricity and water. A lack of connectivity makes it difficult for people to be successful in modern society, considering how many homework assignments, job applications and other day-to-day operations are conducted on the internet.
San Jose is the largest city in Silicon Valley, but an estimated 95,000 residents living there do not have internet access at home, including 36% of Latinx families and 47% of African American families. An estimated 55% of the city's low-income residents are not connected. Digital inclusion efforts aim to prevent these vulnerable groups from being held back by their lack of connectivity.
The Digital Inclusion Fund is San Jose's largest philanthropic effort in recent history. The $24 million cross-sector fund will distribute grants over a 10-year period. During that decade-long effort, the Digital Inclusion Partnership aims to connect 50,000 households with universal device access and connectivity at speeds of at least 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload as well as gaining and sustaining the necessary digital skills to keep up with technology and improve their quality of life.
The partnership notes that $14 million in funding will come from the fees levied on telecom companies to install 5G equipment such as small cells. The remaining $10 million will be raised through private and philanthropic donations. The partnership says that every dollar given already is matched by city funding.
5G fees came under fire last year after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a plan
to streamline the deployment of 5G infrastructure. The plan's most controversial aspect is a cap on the fees that local governments charge the telecom companies, to only cover the government's cost of infrastructure installation. The measure received considerable pushback and is said to hurt programs funded by those fees.
San Jose is among the cities specifically named with digital inclusion programs that potentially could be hurt by the 5G fee cap. Others include Austin, TX; Little Rock, AR; and Troy, OH. Still, the San Jose Digital Inclusion Partnership claims the fees are earmarked for digital equity programs.