#OaklandUndivided is standing up for the residents of Oakland by identifying data-informed strategies to illustrate disparities in the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband maps. The maps will determine eligibility for the once-in-a-generation State and Federal Broadband infrastructure investments slated to open for applications in the coming weeks. With the support of a 2023 Michelson Spark Grant, they will implement a two-phased project, which will illustrate disparities between the internet quality advertised to low-income residents and actual quality received, highlight potential pricing disparities in service plans, and analyze 57 million California speed tests from all Internet Service Providers this year.
Together with Exactly Labs, #OaklandUndivided will collect data from 75 home broadband speed monitoring devices, which plug directly into the participant’s router and monitor the bandwidth delivered to these homes as well as latency spikes and outages. This study will also collect information about participants’ internet plans and costs as well as qualitative survey information about their overall internet experience. The participating houses will be selected in partnership with the Oakland Housing Authority and trusted community-based organizations in order to identify if those living in affordable housing buildings receive the performance for which they believe they are paying. This is particularly important because internal wiring assessments conducted by #OaklandUndivided and CWA previously found that coverage claims were overstated in at least 9 out of 12 affordable housing communities surveyed in 2022.
In addition to monitoring prices paid versus service received, latency spikes, and outages, #OaklandUndivided will also work with the Reid Consulting Group LLC to analyze speed tests throughout the state, which will be inclusive of all Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The speed tests not only include download and upload speeds but also they will be integrated into maps that provide census-derived household counts and Fabric-derived counts of locations and units, as well as areas of progress from 2021 through 2022. To support data-informed decision making between the FCC and CPUC, the maps can be layered with any data requested, including demographics and socioeconomic information. By doing so, decision makers will be able to easily highlight disparities in broadband access throughout the state.
Showing the true reality of connectivity in Oakland has the potential to help up to 440K people. Presently, the FCC’s CostQuest Map shows universal, 100% access throughout Oakland, which fails to demonstrate an understanding of the experience of residents, particularly among residents of color. Part of the difficulty in serving Oakland residents is due to the age of the buildings. In a city where 80% of housing units were built before 1980, many residents, especially in low-income communities, face decades-old copper wires that cannot consistently provide broadband speeds. In order to secure the funding needed to address infrastructure issues and better serve the residents of Oakland, the city must first demonstrate the need, backed by data.
Additionally, #OaklandUndivided’s project has the potential to be scaled throughout the state and nation. Following the study, the grantee will publish a toolkit, which will include step-by-step directions and project plans for other cities interested in mirroring their efforts. The ultimate goal is to gather the data necessary to correct the FCC CostQuest maps throughout California, thus unlocking state and federal funding.
Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.
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