- San Jose, CA announced it has created a Digital Inclusion Fund (DIF) that will provide grants and programs to help close the digital divide in the city. San Jose officials estimate 95,000 residents lack internet access at home.
- The DIF will be supported by the fees telecom companies must pay to the city to install small cells and other infrastructure for 5G deployment. The city has deals with Verizon, AT&T and Mobilitie to put small cells on 4,000 city-owned light poles, which it estimates will bring in $500 million in private sector investment.
- Over the next 10 years, the DIF will aim to connect 50,000 households with universal device access and universal connectivity at speeds of at least 25 Mbps upload/3 Mbps download, and also enhance their digital literacy.
We are excited to announce San José’s #DigitalInclusion Fund so ALL of our residents have access and are ready for an increasingly digital, 21st century world. Read more details here: https://t.co/jp4bQNtfzI pic.twitter.com/V37vUifGn0— San José MOTI (@sanjosemoti) February 13, 2019
The establishment of the new fund is a key plank of the city’s expansive partnership on 5G deployment, with the three companies involved set to contribute roughly $24 million over the next decade. With this DIF, city leaders hope they can ensure everyone can access technology so they can complete schoolwork, improve their career prospects or access technology like telehealth, which Mayor Sam Liccardo said would ensure “all San Jose residents are equipped for an increasingly digital, 21st century world.”
But the city has found its 5G partnership under scrutiny in recent times after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order streamlining small cell deployment and capping the fees that cities can charge telecom companies for installing their infrastructure on publicly-owned property. Liccardo has been a particularly outspoken opponent of that order and has been heavily involved in legal action against the FCC, which is set to rumble on this year with proposed action in Congress. At the time of the order, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel warned that it “irresponsibly interferes” with partnerships like that in San Jose.
In an article for CityLab, San Jose’s Chief Innovation Officer Shireen Santosham said such partnerships, and similar ones across the country, are crucial for closing the digital divide and ensuring the deployment of 5G touches every community, not just the affluent ones. And while it may be concerned about the consequences of the FCC’s order, which went into effect despite the legal action, the formal launch of this fund shows the city and its corporate partners are serious about ensuring equitable access.