The Oakland City Council accepted a $500,000 grant from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to support the City in developing plans for providing affordable, high-speed internet access to underserved areas of Oakland.
The Local Agency Technical Assistance grant award will enable Oakland to plan and design projects to deploy and leverage fiber optic and wireless infrastructure, as well support community engagement and digital literacy plans for the future.
“We are thrilled to receive this grant, which will support us in developing a comprehensive broadband strategy for the City of Oakland,” said Tony Batalla, Oakland’s Director of Information Technology. “Access to affordable residential broadband service will help further the City’s goals for racial equity by addressing social issues associated with the ‘Digital Divide,’ which particularly impacts areas of East and West Oakland. We are grateful to the CPUC for this award.”
The project will build upon the City’s ongoing initiatives to improve equitable access to and adoption of high-speed broadband, including efforts to bring together the Oakland Unified School District, Oakland Housing Authority, and other key stakeholders to assess needs and address barriers to high-speed broadband access.
The City will use this funding to update the 2019 Fiber Optic Master Plan, identify City-owned infrastructure that can be made available to last-mile service providers, conduct a needs assessment to understand gaps in connectivity, with a focus on high-density apartment units, and plan and design broadband infrastructure projects for priority underserved areas.
Access to affordable internet access increases microeconomic development by empowering residents with expanded job opportunities, job training, networking, and many other benefits. Broadband networks and residential internet service also play an important role in the transition to cleaner economy by supporting technologies that reduce carbon emissions like smart thermostats, electric water heaters, and other appliances that connect to the home’s internet service.
The City recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) as part of its new OakWiFi@Home initiative to better understand the landscape of potential partners, receiving dozens of responses ranging from community-based organizations to large Internet Service Providers. The results of this RFI will inform the City’s next steps.
OakWiFi@Home builds on the work of #OaklandUndivided, an initiative to ensure 100% of Oakland public school students have a computer, internet access, and tech support, and the OakWIFI initiative, launched in 2020, to expand Oakland’s public WIFI network.
An estimated 94,000 (21.7%) of Oakland residents lack internet access. A recent report by the Greenlining Institute found a startling correlation between East Bay neighborhoods lacking broadband access and neighborhoods that had been redlined beginning in the 1930s. According to Oakland Unified School District data, a concentration of school-age children in the east and central areas of Oakland as well as portions of west Oakland lack access to the internet.