Feb 26, 2020 - Technology

San Jose approves first step to connect 50,000 unserved residents to broadband

Street scene in San Jose
Street scene in San Jose, California. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images.

The San Jose City Council approved the first batch of community grants as part of the city's Digital Inclusion Fund intended to connect unserved residents to broadband.

Why it matters: The Digital Inclusion Fund was established a year ago during negotiations with 5G providers wanting to erect small cell antennas on city infrastructure. A portion of lease revenue collected from telecom companies goes into the fund — along with significant private funding — to help connect unserved residents.

Details: In the heart of Silicon Valley, 95,0000 San Jose residents do not have broadband access.

  • Over the next 10 years, the Digital Inclusion Fund will connect 50,000 San Jose households with universal device access and connectivity with speeds of at least 25 Mbps download and 3 Mpbs upload.
  • Community organizations receiving the grants will also help improve digital skills proficiency.
  • The non-profit California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) is managing the fund and helping to raise additional private funding to reach the $24 million goal, per a city press release.

Why you'll hear about this again: Dozens of cities, including San Jose, are in a legal battle with the Federal Communications Commission over the agency's rules limiting the fees cities can charge telecom companies for access to city property to install 5G equipment.

  • San Jose struck a deal with wireless carriers: The companies would get a discount on access to city infrastructure in exchange for a commitment to build out the 5G network across the city. Some of the revenue from the small cell lease agreements would go toward the Digital Inclusion Fund to help fill coverage gaps.
  • San Jose's negotiations with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile were completed before the FCC's rules, which discourage cities from negotiating arrangements like San Jose's, went into effect last year.
  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case earlier this month and a decision is expected later this year.

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