California Emerging Technology Fund and CENIC: In Pursuit of a Common Goal
CENIC and the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) share a common goal: to close the digital divide by accelerating the deployment and adoption of high-speed broadband. CENIC pursues this mission by connecting research and education institutions throughout the state to CalREN, a high-capacity network designed to meet the unique requirements of its over 20 million users. These users include the vast majority of K-20 students together with educators, researchers, and individuals at other vital public-serving institutions. When higher education, public schools, public libraries, and other anchor institutions in a community are connected, however, community members can become even more aware of the lack of high-speed broadband in their own homes.
Broadband is essential for homework, employment applications, job training, health services, and civic activities. Yet, according to a report by the Field Research Corporation, 16% of Californians do not have high-speed Internet at home, and 30% do not have home broadband and a computing device. Too many low-income, rural, and disabled Californians are disenfranchised from the digital economy because of cost and lack of access (2016 Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, Field Research Corporation). The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reports that only 47% of rural households have access to broadband Internet (California Advanced Services Fund, 2016 Annual Report).
CETF has been working to create a coalition of diverse stakeholders to address this need. By connecting unserved and underserved communities and populations, they work to ensure that California is a global leader in the availability and use of broadband technology.
In their 2016–2017 annual report, Internet for All Now: a 21st Century Civil Right, CETF details its five overarching strategies to achieve optimal impact: civic leader engagement, venture philanthropy grantmaking, public policy initiatives, public awareness, and education and strategic partnerships.
One of its major strategic partnerships is the Internet For All Now campaign. The campaign’s goal is to replenish the California Advanced Services Fund, ensuring that rural and poor communities are connected to high-speed Internet. Sunne Wright McPeak, president and CEO of CETF, leads the coalition working to secure funding for infrastructure projects, and aims to provide broadband access to no fewer than 98% of California households by the end of 2023.
Ensuring broadband access to all Californians is a gigantic and complex feat. Multiple strategies must be pursued to achieve connectivity for all. Both CETF and CENIC agree that ensuring robust broadband access is a priority for California to remain a leader in the 21st Century.