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The California Teleconnect Fund

The California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) is a program run by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that provides a 25% discount on select telephone services and 50% discounts on broadband services to schools, libraries, hospitals and about 7,000 Community Based Organizations (CBOs). Money for the discount comes from a surcharge paid by telephone customers (“ratepayers”) on their monthly phone bills. Is your organization receiving CTF support? Check your telecommunications bill! Our friends at Alternative Technologies collected a few sample bills so you know what to look for. If you used to get the CTF discount but suddenly it disappeared from your bill, please contact your carrier directly. Read more >

Webinar Recording: Making Sense of the New Teleconnect Fund Rules

In June 2016 CalNonprofits team offered this informational webinar about the new California Teleconnect Fund eligibility and rules changes, and the impact they may have on your organization's finances. Diana Dunker, Former CalNonprofits Program Director, provides an overview of the CTF program; Ana Montes, Organizing Director for The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and a member of the California Teleconnect Fund Administrative Committee, helped figure out the new rules and who will be effected. Christina Dragonetti, CalNonprofits Membership Manager, shows you where to look for the CTF discount on your bill, what to expect in the coming months or years, and where to go for more answers. Get the recording here (FREE for members / $10 for non-members).

Current Eligibility

Currently libraries, hospitals, health clinics, community colleges, nonprofit and public schools, and other similar organizations are eligible for the CTF without meeting additional criteria (complete details here). In order to be eligible to receive the discount on services as a Community Based Organization, you must:

  • Be located in California and serve communities in California
  • Have tax-exempt status as 501(c)3 or 501(d) organization
  • Directly offer at least one of the following services: health care,* job training, job placement, 2-1-1 referral services, educational instruction, or a community technology program
  • Show total revenue on the most recent 990 does not exceed $5 million

*If you provide health care, but no other services on this list, all members of your organization’s board of directors must reside in California.

These rules will change in late 2017 when new eligibility rules will go into effect (see New CTF Program Rules, below).

If you used to get the CTF discount but suddenly it disappeared from your bill, please contact the CTF Staff directly at (415) 703-2627.

Applying for the CTF discount

Currently 501(c)3 and 501(d) nonprofits can apply as a Community Based Organization for the Fund by mailing in a simple application form (PDF download). The CTF Staff will review the application and either approve or reject it, or request additional information from your organization. Read more >

Reviewing and Updating the California Teleconnect Fund Rules

In 1996, when the CTF was created to encourage adoption of “advanced communications” this meant access to telephones and to dial-up Internet connections available in computer labs. Technology has changed considerably since then and the Fund has grown from $60 million in 2009-2010 to distributing more than $108 million in discounts in 2014-2015. The budget increases reflect growing demand from educational institutions, like community colleges, and other new program participants.

In response to the technology changes and the growth of the Fund, a Rulemaking to Conduct a Comprehensive Examination of the California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) (R.13-01-010) was issued by the CPUC on January 31, 2013, to examine whether the CTF was fulfilling its purpose and whether the CTF’s current structure and administrative process are adequate to further the programs goals. The CPUC also reaffirmed its commitment to bringing the benefits of advanced communications services to all Californians, while also ensuring that California ratepayer money is spent prudently.

The Rulemaking was divided into 3 Phases, with Phase I to cover revising the program goals, Phase II to cover new rules for participation and eligibility, and Phase II to cover implementation details.  When it became clear that the goals and the eligibility criteria were inextricably linked, Phase I and II were combined and on July 7, 2015 the Commissioners issued a Decision Resolving Phase I & II Issues. The Decision details revised goals and new criteria for participation for both recipients and telecommunications/internet providers. Read more >

New CTF Program Rules

Commissioner Peterman’s Decision Resolving Phase I and II Issues maintains that the program be available to pre- and K-12 schools, public community colleges, public libraries, hospitals, health care clinics, community based organizations (CBOs), and community technology programs. Other highlights from the Decision include:

  • Reduced support for voice and VoIP services to 25% off monthly charges (with a process for exemption requests to be determined).
  • The discount will continue be 50% off other eligible services.
  • Updated eligible services list that includes newer technologies (see Decision Appendix B for details)
  • CBOs (but not other entities) are required to re-certify their eligibility every 3 years.

However, the Decision also contains revised goals for the program and new eligibility rules that will disqualify a large number of CBOs. You can find the complete text of the Decision here (discussion of CBO eligibility begins on page 22) but we’ve highlighted the key points below. Read more >

CalNonprofits Role

Together with a Policy Task Force of members, our staff have played an active role in advocating for the best possible outcomes for nonprofits who currently or may in the future participate in the CTF. As a Party to the Proceeding, we’ve submitted Comments on different proposals put forth by the CTF Staff, met with Commissioners’ staff directly, and participated in hearings and workshops conducted by the CPUC. Our goal in Phase I & II was to minimize the restrictions placed on nonprofit participation in the CTF, and in Phase III our goal is to make sure the implementation of the new rules is fair and remains simple for participating nonprofits.

How you can help

The most important role for all nonprofits in this process is to make your story heard by the Commissioners. Let us know if you currently receive the CTF discount. If you’re not sure, check the monthly bill from your telecommunications provider for a line that says “CTF Discount” something similar. Click here for examples from different providers.

Other helpful contributions:

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