The California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) is a program run by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that provides a 50% discount on select telephone and 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. (Download fact sheet here.) 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.
The CTF program, started in 1996, was designed to encourage adoption of advanced modern communications technologies and support the goal of universal access for all Californians. As computers and Internet connections proliferated throughout the state, it became obvious that poor communities and communities of color were not able to access these advanced technologies at home. At the same time, more and more jobs and schools required proficiency with computers and the Internet, raising additional barriers to success for children and adults without access at home.
The gap in access was labeled the Digital Divide and the Teleconnect Fund was one way the legislature decided to try to close the gap – by reimbursing telecommunications and internet providers for offering a 50% discount on their services to organizations who provided internet access directly or offered services that would help individuals without access to have the same opportunities and information.
Every year, the CTF Staff try to estimate how much the Fund will need to cover all of the discount requests for the next year, and the Commissioners approve the budget then set the fees accordingly. In the past few years, the Commissioners have had to raise the surcharge to cover increased, unexpected demand on the Fund. As of June 1, 2015 this rate is 1.08% (so if the phone bill is $100 the customer would pay an additional $1.08.)