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Housed at the Michelson 20MM Foundation, the Digital Equity Pooled Fund is a new collaboration between 20MM, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), and California Community Foundation (CCF) that is focused on advancing digital equity in California. 

The Digital Equity Pooled Fund aims to position equity at the forefront of how broadband infrastructure dollars are spent in California by ensuring digital equity advocates and communities most affected by the digital divide can make their voices heard in critical regulatory processes.

The Digital Equity Pooled Fund is thrilled to announce that The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and The Center for Accessible Technology (CforAT) will comprise the fund’s inaugural cohort of funded partners. TURN and CforAT are two organizations leading digital equity efforts in California.  

“By pooling our funds to support ongoing, hands-on technical support for community-based organizations and local governments to participate in the state’s critical regulatory processes, we are making a shared investment in leveling the playing field for the people and communities most affected by the digital divide,” said Shayna Englin, Director of California Community Foundation’s Digital Equity Initiative. “In the coming year, we anticipate a significant shift in the balance of voices heard at the California Public Utilities Commission in favor of community and equity.”  

“In today’s society, digital equity is required to access education, healthcare, employment, political participation, and other basic rights. The projects funded by the Digital Equity Pooled Fund will help ensure underserved communities are central to these conversations.”

—Dr. Gary K. Michelson, founder and co-chair of the Michelson 20MM Foundation and the Michelson Center for Public Policy

As the only independent statewide utility consumer advocacy organization in California, TURN’s  work centers on advocating for affordable and dependable utility services, and standing up for consumers across the state as an independent and unbiased voice. TURN’s Voice for Broadband Equity Project, directly supported by the fund, will provide training and technical assistance to BIPOC-led and BIPOC- and low-income-serving organizations who want to participate in proceedings at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

“Support from the Digital Equity Pooled Fund is critical to enabling TURN to bring diverse community voices from Los Angeles, the Central Valley, and throughout California to impact policy making at CPUC, to ensure that telecom carriers are held accountable to reaching state residents without affordable, high-speed internet service,” stated Mark W. Toney, Executive Director of TURN.

Concurrently, CforAT represents people with disabilities before the CPUC for both telecommunications policy and energy policy. They are working to ensure that telecommunications services are accessible, wireless access is expanded, utility services are affordable, and changes in these arenas are effectively communicated among individuals with access and functional needs.  

“For decades, the profit motives of large incumbent internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast have deprived people with disabilities, households of color, and low-income households of the broadband services that are critical to success in today’s economy,” said Paul Goodman, Legal Counsel for CforAT. “CforAT has always believed that decisions about communities’ needs and solutions are best made by communities themselves. CforAT is honored to have the opportunity to help communities build capacity to advocate for broadband policies that place the needs of community members above shareholder dividends.” 

Through their Digital Equity Technical Assistance Project, CforAT will house a technical assistance center to support sustained community engagement concerning broadband, digital literacy, and beyond. The center will also provide additional resources, including office hours and a review of community comments.

“In today’s society, digital equity is required to access education, healthcare, employment, political participation, and other basic rights. Yet for too long, policy development and decision-making has been monopolized by corporate interests,” said Dr. Gary K. Michelson, founder and co-chair of the Michelson 20MM Foundation and the Michelson Center for Public Policy. “The projects funded by the Digital Equity Pooled Fund will help ensure underserved communities are central to these conversations.”

To learn more about the fund’s grantmaking priorities and the growing list of philanthropic partners, visit the Digital Equity Pooled Fund page.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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