Non-profit community- based organizations like Access Sacramento who enjoy a discount on telecommunications services may lose this valuable program under changes proposed by the California Public Utilities Commission.

phoneCalifornia’s Teleconnect Fund is funded through surcharges and works to help the community crack the digital divide by providing more robust connectivity for non-profits, schools, libraries and hospitals than they otherwise would be able to afford.

The first of two statewide hearings is today at 1 pm in the Rancho Cordova City Council chambers, where those affected by the fund may comment on the new proposal. Another hearing is planned Thursday at the Long Beach City Council Chambers.

The Teleconnect Fund has increased from $33.2 million in fiscal 2008-09 to $92.4 millions in fiscal 2013-14.

The proposal by the PUC restricts many nonprofit enrollees and eliminates many providing direct services, including food, childcare, housing and health services. The proposal cuts the general 50% discount and replaces it with a series of complicated geographically-determined flat rates, which means the subsidy wouldn’t go up when prices go up.

A news release from The Media-Alliance of Oakland points out that smaller and more flexible institutions like community and cultural centers play a huge role in bridging economic inequality and providing in public settings what can’t always be provided in the home, including fast and accessible internet service to connect with jobs, housing, government offices, and connect with friends, family and information.

In announcing the hearings, the PUC initiated the current rulemaking to further the important goal of bringing the benefits of advanced communications services to all Californians, while also ensuring that California ratepayers’ money is spent prudently.  The rulemaking is a comprehensive program review as part of the Commission’s oversight responsibilities, specifically, to make sure the CTF program is functioning properly and its goals are met.

The PUC welcomes comments:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 1:00 p.m.

Rancho Cordova City Council Chambers


2729 Prospect Park Drive


Rancho Cordova, CA  95670

Call-in phone number:1-866-759-3680, Passcode: 3783287#

 

Thursday, July 31, 2014, 1:00 p.m.

Long Beach City Council Chambers


333 West Ocean Blvd.


Long Beach, CA 90802

Call-in phone number: 1-866-836-1585, Passcode: 9087049#

Nonprofits and the public can make a comment here.

The PUC will consider the issue at its San Francisco headquarters at 505 Van Ness Avenue on August 14th at 9:00 a.m.