KTLA 5 Talks Lifeline With TruConnect Co-CEO Matthew Johnson
Company Urges State Policymakers to Increase Support for California LifeLine
LOS ANGELES, CA, MAY 27, 2020—Yesterday, TruConnect was recognized by KTLA News Los Angeles for its efforts to deliver free internet services to disconnected residents, helping to "bridge the digital divide" during the COVID-19 pandemic.
TruConnect provides free mobile broadband to more than 250,000 Californians through the state's LifeLine program. During the coronavirus crisis, the company has partnered with anti-poverty organizations including the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Greenlining Institute to load TruConnect phones with food security apps that access CalFresh, free lunch programs and foodbanks, links to health resources and e-learning solutions for non-profit charities, and even a text message that links to the state's online unemployment application.
Despite TruConnect's efforts and those of leading advocates, however, the state is not making a significant dent in the more than 4.5 million Californians who are eligible for LifeLine but do not participate. While more than 5 million residents have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began, less than 60,000 Californians signed up for free wireless between March and April, a quarter of whom where enrolled by TruConnect.
Last year, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 704 to dramatically expand LifeLine eligibility, but the bill failed to become law. In addition, a 2019 California Legislative Analyst's Office report recommended a series of program reforms, including "a statewide marketing and outreach plan to help improve overall program awareness among eligible households" that the California Public Utilities Commission is yet to initiate.
"We're proud to be recognized for our efforts to provide a vital lifeline to more than a quarter million Californians most impacted by COVID-19 in partnership with leading advocacy organizations," said TruConnect Co-CEO Nathan Johnson. "But it is fast becoming time to call the question on whether Sacramento is serious about supporting California LifeLine and using free wireless broadband to close the digital divide at this critical moment."
Earlier in the month, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, California Community Economic Development Association, California Reinvestment Coalition, Public Interest Law Project, Clínica Monseñor Oscar A. Romero, and the East Bay Community Law Center wrote to Governor Gavin Newsom and state legislators proposing strategies to increase Lifeline enrollment to 90-100% participation from its current low of less than 40%.
Assembly Bill 3079, authored by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), will make it easier for those who receive free wireless services to remain in the Lifeline program and allow even more eligible Californians to participate. The bill was approved by the Assembly's Communications and Conveyance Committee on May 5.
Over 60% of those eligible for California Lifeline have yet to participate, and only 30% of participants are able to annually re-certify their enrollment due to major administrative hurdles. In March, Truconnect and advocates successfully petitioned the CPUC to waive the re-certification burden on participants during the coronavirus pandemic.
TruConnect is the state's only LifeLine carrier that provides participants with a free 4G/LTE smartphone and access to hotspots built on WiFi technology. Free mobile telephone and broadband service during the Shelter-In-Place order is available through TruConnect's website, www.truconnect.com. Applicants who meet low-income eligibility requirements will receive a free phone through the mail and be able to stay connected throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
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Founded in 2011, TruConnect has become one of the nation’s fastest-growing provider of Lifeline wireless telecommunications services, expanding into over 30 states in the past two years TruConnect strives to provide affordable & flexible technology solutions to low-income communities and budget-conscious consumers, helping to bring us closer to closing the digital divide. To learn more, visit us at www.truconnect.com .
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