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Oakland Selected as Inaugural City in National Effort to Close the Digital Divide for Good

Date Posted: November 4th, 2021 @ 9:14 AM
Last Updated: November 4th, 2021 @ 9:14 AM

OAKLAND, CA – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf today announced that the city had been selected by national organization EducationSuperHighway to participate in a pilot project that aims to connect 90% of Oakland’s estimated 36,951 unconnected homes to high-speed broadband over the next five years.

Today’s announcement builds on the unprecedented success of the #OaklandUndivided campaign, which has raised $17+ million, distributed more than 29,000 laptops and 10,000 hotspots, and fulfilled 10,000 tech support requests this past school year.

EducationSuperHighway, a national non-profit organization, has been working to connect students for remote learning during the pandemic. This new announcement comes a year after it successfully completed its mission to connect 47 million students to close the K-12 classroom connectivity gap.

Now, EducationSuperHighway’s new No Home Left Offline report highlights that two-thirds of America’s unconnected households are still offline because they cannot afford an available Internet connection. This “broadband affordability gap” is present in every state and disproportionately impacts low-income, Black, and Latinx Americans, and is the number one barrier to closing the digital divide.

Over the next five years, the two organizations will form “Oakland Connect” to deploy EducationSuperHighway’s broadband adoption and free apartment Wi-Fi programs to help community members from low-income backgrounds overcome the trust and enrollment barriers unconnected households face when signing up for federal broadband programs and home broadband service. The programs target "America's most unconnected communities," where more than 25% of people don't have Internet.

“Public-private partnerships, exemplified by the success of #OaklandUndivided, are critical to achieving equity in cities across the country,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Oakland is proud to partner with EducationSuperHighway, a critical leadership partner of #OaklandUndivided to remove affordability barriers and dramatically increase broadband access for our most vulnerable populations and close the digital divide for good.”

#OaklandUndivided is a collective impact, equity-focused initiative composed of founding partners Oakland Unified School District, the City of Oakland, TechExchange, the Oakland Public Education Fund, Oakland Promise, and over 15 leadership partners (see oaklandundivided.org for all partners and impact to date). Working together, they have increased home access to a computer and internet for Oakland public school students from low-income backgrounds from 12% to 98%. Moving into Phase II, #OaklandUndivided has a dual focus of sustaining home access for all Oakland public school students while also increasing broadband access in Oakland’s most under-connected communities - notably West Oakland, Fruitvale, and East Oakland.

“We are excited about the potential of the partnership led by #OaklandUndivided and the city of Oakland to close the digital divide in the city,” said Othello Meadows, Managing Director at Blue Meridian Partners. “We are inspired by their deep commitment to an equitable recovery for those most affected by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The exciting work being done by the partners behind #OaklandUndivided – including EducationSuperHighway – is a testament to what is possible when leaders come together and remain focused on improving access for their people."

In response to the pandemic, a bipartisan consensus has emerged to dramatically accelerate progress towards closing the digital divide. The state and federal government has recognized the need to address the broadband affordability gap with potential once-in-a-generation investments. Oakland was selected by EducationSuperHighway as the inaugural pilot city for the national launch of No Home Left Offline because it has come together to seize this unique moment in history to address a long-standing inequity and close the digital divide once and for all.

The deployment of the OAK WiFi initiative was also a critical factor in EducationSuperHighway's decision to partner with Oakland. The project, made possible by the allocation of $7.7M of CARES Act funding, unanimously approved by the Oakland City Council in 2020, provides a network of live access zones throughout the city, greatly expanding the coverage from West Oakland through Downtown and along the International Blvd corridor to the San Leandro border. EducationSuperHighway's free apartment Wi-Fi is modeled after the way Wi-Fi is delivered in most hotels today. Rather than buy a separate Internet connection for each room, the hotel buys a single internet connection for the building and then installs a building-wide Wi-Fi network. This new program will leverage OAK WiFi's recently deployed fiber infrastructure to improve connectivity and adoption among a significant portion of the city's least connected residents.

“The action taken to connect students during the pandemic provides a blueprint for a broad public-private partnership to close the broadband affordability gap,” said Evan Marwell, Founder and CEO of EducationSuperHighway. “We selected Oakland to be EducationSuperHighway’s first pilot city not only because it’s representative of the broadband affordability gap nationally, but the city is leading the nation in its efforts to close the digital divide. We are thrilled to partner with Mayor Schaaf, Oakland Promise, and #OaklandUndivided to remove the barriers that keep low-income families from connecting.”

MEDIA CONTACTS

David Silver, Director of Education - Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (510-393-4888)

Patricia Wells, Executive Director - Oakland Housing Authority (510-773-7917)

Jessica Ramos, #OaklandUndivided Student Liaison and former OUSD School Board Student Director (818-564-3565)

EDUCATIONSUPERHIGHWAY

esh@commstrat.com

ABOUT #OAKLANDUNDIVIDED

The #OaklandUndivided (#OU) is a partnership between Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Office of Education, Oakland Promise, Oakland Public Education Fund, Oakland Unified School District, and Tech Exchange, and over 15 leadership partners. Its vision is to close the digital divide and its initial mission is to ensure every Oakland public school student has access to a computer, Internet connection, and technology support. To date, they have distributed 29,000 laptops and 10,000 hotspots to Oakland schools, students and families, and responded to 10,000 tech support requests. #OU has worked to increase home access to a computer and internet for Oakland public school students from low-income backgrounds from 12% to 98%. For more info on partners, impact to date, or how to get involved, go to: www.oaklandundivided.org

ABOUT OAKLAND PROMISE

Oakland Promise is available to young learners (from newborns to college students) and their families who reside in Oakland. OP offers every child the financial resources, educational programming, mentorship, and a supportive community to help them and their families, to seek out and thrive in higher education and the career of their choosing. Oakland Promise is available to young learners (from newborns to college students) and their families who reside in Oakland. OP offers every child the financial resources, educational programming, mentorship, and a supportive community to help them and their families, to seek out and thrive in higher education and the career of their choosing.

https://oaklandpromise.org/

ABOUT EDUCATIONSUPERHIGHWAY

EducationSuperHighway is a national non-profit with the mission to close the digital divide for the 18 million households that have access to the Internet but can't afford to connect. They focus on America's most unconnected communities, where more than 25% of people don't have Internet. From 2012-2020, EducationSuperHighway led the effort that closed the classroom connectivity gap. In 2013, only 10% of students had access to digital learning in their classrooms. Today, thanks to an unprecedented bi-partisan effort by federal, state, and school district leaders, supported by K-12 advocacy organizations, the classroom connectivity gap is closed - 47 million students are connected, and 99.3% of America's schools have a high-speed broadband connection.

www.educationsuperhighway.org

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