Oakland awarded $500,000 grant to expand high speed internet access

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California Construction News staff writer

A $500,000 grant from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will help the City of Oakland expand affordable, highspeed internet access to underserved areas of Oakland.

Projects will leverage fiber optic and wireless infrastructure, as well support community engagement and digital literacy plans for the future.

A Request for Information (RFI) was recently issued 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.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant, which will support us in developing a comprehensive broadband strategy,” said Tony Batalla, Oakland’s director of information technology. “Access to affordable residential broadband service will help further 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  ongoing initiatives to improve equitable access to highspeed broadband, working with the Oakland Unified School District, Oakland Housing Authority, and other key stakeholders to assess needs and address barriers to highspeed broadband access.

Funds will also be used 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.

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.

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