its kind in the nation
Divide Fund Signed into Law
By Linda Fowells and Laurie
California now has a new Digital Divide Grant Program aimed at
closing the technology gap!
Recently, California's Governor Davis signed AB 855 (Firebaugh and
Levine) which mandates that 15% of the revenues generated from new
leases for wireless telecommunication facilities (e.g., cell towers
on state property) will be set aside to create a Digital Divide
Fund. This fund will be administered by the California Public Utilities
Commission (PUC) to provide grants to community-based nonprofit
organizations for projects such as technology training, developing
local community content, harnessing technology for e-government
services, and preparing youth for opportunities in the technology-based
In his signing message, Governor Gray Davis cited that the new
Digital Divide Fund, "will result in a win-win outcome by enhancing
providers' ability to locate wireless facilities, while generating
additional revenue for digital divide projects." The Governor's
office estimates that this bill will generate $3 to $6 million for
Digital Divide projects. The law also strengthens the California
Teleconnect Fund (which allows discounts to CBOs for telecommunications
The California Community Technology Policy Group (CCTPG) has been
integral in shaping and successfully passing this legislation (AB
855) as part of its Policy Agenda. CCTPG's Agenda calls for the
creation of new funding streams and the direction of existing funds
to promote digital opportunities for low-income, disabled, and rural
communities. The new Digital Divide legislation addresses both of
these goals; first with the creation of a dedicated and sustainable
fund; and secondly with the enhancement of the California Teleconnect
Fund, a component of the Public Utilities Commission's current universal
service program, and a fund CCTPG successfully fought to preserve
earlier this year.
This new legislation is the first of its kind in the nation, written
broadly to support a range of digital projects that address access,
training and content development. While the current bill puts the
program into place, supporting legislation is still needed to work
out the implementation. CCTPG will continue to count on supporters
of Community Technology again as we work on the implementation of
the AB 855, as well as SB 720, another technology bill we sucessfully
supported that allows funds to subsidize community technology programs'
access to high speed networks.
But before we take our next steps, we wish to thank all those who
helped us make this goal a reality. As Assemblyman Firebaugh told
us earlier this year during Sacramento Day, obtaining new resources
for our communities requires new and innovative public private partnerships.
AB 855 is a great example!
For the complete text of the bill, go to
Linda Fowells is Vice President,
Programs and Public Affairs at Community Partners and is an active
member of CCTPG. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laurie Kawakami is a Program Assistant at Community Partners. She
can be reached at LKawakami@CommunityPartners.org