The East Bay Broadband Consortium (EBBC) was established, with funding from the California Public Utilities Commission, to improve Broadband (high-speed Internet) access, adoption, and utilization in the East Bay.
EBBC is guided by the vision that all East Bay residents can come to engage the digital world effectively in their education, their employment, and their lives and enter a career in information and communications technology should they so choose. To pursue this vision, EBBC has developed a comprehensive, integrated set of strategies.
Faster Internet for Everyone: In relation to Broadband access, EBBC has produced the whitepaper, Faster Internet for Everyone, and launched an initiative to help make the East Bay a gigabit Region. The initiative is based on three principles:
- Gigabit Broadband constitutes essential infrastructure for all the residents, businesses, public agencies and neighborhoods in the East Bay.
- Public agencies and internet service providers need to collaborate effectively to eliminate barriers and establish the Broadband infrastructure the region needs.
- The region should work together to bridge the Digital Divide so that all residents and all neighborhoods, regardless of location, income level or ethnicity, have access to the internet and digital literacy leading to digital mastery.
Through this initiative, EBBC is working to encourage the cities and counties in the East Bay to adopt and implement gigabit Broadband strategies—based on these three principles—utilizing large-scale telecom providers, public private partnerships, or both strategies together.
Digital Inclusion Solution: The East Bay has a significant Broadband adoption challenge with a substantial digital divide in lower income neighborhoods. For example, according to the American Communities Survey, 47% of low income families in Oakland do not have access to a desktop or lap top computer and Internet at home.
Lack of digital literacy is a significant factor contributing to lower academic achievement, unemployment and underemployment, diminished citizen participation in public affairs, and reduced quality and enjoyment of life.
To address this challenge, EBBC has partnered with the Tech Exchange to establish the Digital Inclusion Solution which provides free refurbished computers, free digital literacy training, 1-year of free tech support, and assistance accessing $10 a month Broadband internet.
The Digital Inclusion Solution is offered through Tech Fairs that are events organized with schools and community partners for 30 to 50 families. Currently, on average, at least one Tech Fair is being presented each week across the East Bay. During the last year, the Tech Exchange and EBBC provided the Digital Inclusion Solution to over 2,300 families at 65 Tech Fairs.
Get Connected Oakland: To pursue Broadband adoption more broadly in Oakland, EBBC and the Tech Exchange are co-founders of the public/private partnership, Get Connected Oakland, with the goal of ensuring that all Oakland residents have access to the Internet and a computer at home, through the library, or in a public computer lab.
Get Connected Oakland is staffed by the Oakland Mayor’s Office and, in addition to EBBC and the Tech Exchange, includes: Oakland Promise; Oakland Parks and Recreation; Oakland Public Library; Oakland Unified School District; and the Oakland Housing Authority.
The Get Connected Oakland website includes a map of all the 46 public computer labs in Oakland as well as information on how to check out a WIFI Hot Spot from the Library and how to obtain free computers, digital literacy training, tech support, and low-cost Internet subscriptions.
Tech Talent Pathways Partnership: EBBC is an active partner in the Tech Talent Pathways Partnership (T2P2), working to catalyze and coordinate the training, placement, and advancement of greater Oakland’s diverse residents from non-traditional backgrounds in sustainable tech career pathways. T2P2 leads Oakland’s role as a national Tech Hire City and:
- Maps the tech training ecosystem and measures its impact.
- Builds tech training partner capacity.
- Encourages businesses to hire T2P2 talent.
- Boosts community awareness of tech pathways.
- Amplifies best practices.
T2P2 is a cross sector partnership, led by Urban Strategies Council, that includes tech education not-for-profits, workforce development organizations, Oakland Unified School District, community colleges, Cal State East Bay, industry groups, and public agencies.
East Bay ICT Partnership: EBBC is also a community partner in the East Bay ICT Partnership, a collaboration of Information Communication Technology (ICT) businesses leaders and local community partners working together to align the needs of employers with education and training programs to ensure that companies thrive on local talent.
The East Bay ICT Partnership includes 21 business champions and 33 community partners who recognize that the use of local talent benefits everyone, increasing economic vitality and social well-being in the East Bay.
Tech Equity Collaborative: EBBC co-founded the Tech Equity Collaborative to advocate for a tech-driven economy in the Bay Area that works for everyone. The Tech Equity Collaborative is a membership organization made up of individuals and companies that are committed to activating the tech community’s civic power to create a more equitable region and a tech economy characterized by diversity and inclusion.
With hundreds of members and a rapidly growing membership, the Tech Equity Collaborative presents regular forums and other events and joins in coalitions to advocate for:
- Affordable housing.
- A diverse, inclusive workforce.
- Widespread access to technology.
SMART NEIGHBORHOODS: EBBC and Get Connected Oakland are now working to focus all of these efforts in low and moderate-income neighborhoods, first in Oakland and subsequently in other cities in the East Bay.
With the Tech Exchange as the lead agency, in partnership with Community Technology Network, the SMART NEIGHBORHOODS initiative proposes to establish Tech Hubs in appropriate public computer labs, staffed by Digital Ambassadors to interface with the neighborhoods where the Tech Hubs are located, and supported by tech education organizations and tech companies.
SMART NEIGHBORHOODS will offer distribution of free and low-cost home computers, tech support, digital literacy training, access to public computers, and provision of a wide range of tech education programs, particularly programs compatible with Oakland Unified School District computer education.
Summit: EBBC hosts an East Bay Broadband Summit every year to assess progress on its initiatives and present its future plans. In 2017, the well-attended Summit released EBBC’s whitepaper, Faster Internet for Everyone, and featured a keynote by Sunne Wright McPeak, President of the California Emerging Technology Fund, addressing the need for increased Broadband coverage.
In addition, the Summit presented city representatives from San Leandro, Brentwood, and Vallejo in conversation with Broadband providers AT&T, Comcast, and Paxio, exploring how cities and providers can work together to obtain gigabit Broadband throughout the East Bay. The Summit concluded with a discussion of progress in bridging the digital divide in the East Bay, featuring representatives from the Tech Exchange, T2P2, and the Tech Equity Collaborative, and a call to action.
Getting Engaged With EBBC: There are many ways to engage with EBBC:
- Public agencies, businesses, and community organizations can become members, receive regular communications, and participate in the annual member Summits.
- The Tech Exchange is always on the lookout for computer donations to be refurbished and provided free to low-income families and the Tech Fairs, where the computers are distributed, can always use volunteers.
- Tech workers and tech companies can join the Tech Equity Collaborative and attend its forums and participate in its campaigns.
- Donations are being solicited to help launch the Smart Neighborhoods pilot.
Just go here to sign up and indicate what you would like to do.
Conclusion: EBBC’s comprehensive approach to improving Broadband infrastructure, bridging the digital divide, and establishing tech equity in the East Bay is meeting with significant success by working at each crucial level:
- Access to high speed digital infrastructure.
- Acquisition of free computers and Internet access in homes and public computer labs throughout the East Bay.
- STEM and tech training and job placement.
- Incorporation of diversity, inclusion, and equity in the tech workplace.
- Soon, neighborhood engagement.
We hope you will join with us at whatever level interests you most.