California Unites to Close Distance Learning Divide

California has brought together some cross-sector partners, including Verizon and T-Mobile, to help it deliver distance learning services and devices to over 70,000 students to help bridge the digital divide, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

Among the initiatives are a funding infusion of $30 million from the California Public Utilities Commission to provide internet access and computing devices. 

"It’s inspiring to see parents, teachers, businesses and philanthropy step up to meet this moment and provide tools to help bridge the digital divide and get more students connected," said the governor. 

According to Newsom, one in five students lack either high-sped internet or the appropriate device. In low-income neighborhoods, according to a survey of parents, half don't have the laptop or tablet to access distance learning from a hotspot. 

Newsom earlier in the month called for businesses to step up, and he said they did.  

Those include: 

1. "T-Mobile is donating 13,000 tablet devices, in addition to the previously-announced 100,000 hotspot devices (for which they partnered with Google.) 

2. "Amazon is donating 10,000 tablet devices. 

3. "Apple is actively working with 800 districts across the state, offering free coaching sessions to teachers to help them with the transition to remote learning. In addition, Apple is offering special pricing for iPads with cellular, and has given the equivalent of 9,000 iPads to ensure the most vulnerable in our state have access. 

4. "Verizon is partnering with the State of California to provide 250,000 students with unlimited Internet service at a discount." 

The FCC has been seeking distance learning funds in COVID-19 aid legislation. The first CARES Act aid bill was focused on telehealth funding, for obvious reasons since mitigating the spread of the pandemic is job number one.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.