For Immediate Release
Sonoma County, nonprofit partner awarded $500,000 to promote free internet service for low-income households
Santa Rosa, CA | March 29, 2023
The Sonoma County Economic Development Board has been awarded $300,000 from the Federal Communications Commission to expand local enrollment in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides free and discounted internet service to low-income households.
Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, a Santa Rosa nonprofit that helps low-income families and individuals achieve economic and social stability, also received a $200,000 grant to promote the Affordable Connectivity Program to local households.
Under the program, eligible households can receive up to $30 per month toward internet service, while households on qualifying Tribal lands can receive up to $75 per month. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
“This grant enables us to build on current community partnerships and execute a comprehensive outreach strategy to connect with as many eligible Sonoma County households as possible about the benefits of this powerful program,” said EDB Interim Executive Director Ethan Brown. “Thanks to the determination of our staff and community partners, we will continue working to expand awareness and accessibility to broadband services within our local community.”
An estimated 71,600 Sonoma County households qualify for free or discounted high-speed internet service through the Affordable Connectivity Program, according to Internet for All Now, an initiative of the California Emerging Technology Fund. Only 8,894 Sonoma County households, or just 12 percent of eligible households, are enrolled in the program.
“This funding will support a more equitable access to internet services, and will enable families to be better equipped to participate in our digital world and increase their access to vital community resources and educational and employment opportunities,” said Kathy Gonzales-Kane, director of services for Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County. “We look forward to working together with EDB to increase local participation in the program.”
The FCC awarded $66 million in grants to 197 organizations across the country, including 15 in California, to promote the Affordable Connectivity Program. Recipient organizations will use the grant funds to conduct digital campaigns, door-to-door canvassing, operate phone banks, distribute direct mail, and host application enrollment and outreach events. On June 8, 2021, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors took significant action to make internet service more affordable and widely available by directing staff to research options for expanding broadband access and adoption.
The Board’s actions parallel recent state and federal grant programs that fund and facilitate broadband planning infrastructure, including the California Public Utility Commission’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program and the American Rescue Plan Act. In addition to the importance of assessing the steps necessary to establish reliable broadband infrastructure and services in unserved and underserved areas of the county, providing residents with affordable and equitable access to existing service is key in supporting regional efforts to bridge the digital divide.
For more information about the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program in Sonoma County, including how to apply, please visit AffordableConnectivity.gov.
Sonoma County Economic Development Board
Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County
(707) 544-6911 ext. 1091