LOS ANGELES, CA, APRIL 24, 2020—This week, TruConnect, the state's only California-based provider of free mobile broadband services, announced its support for Governor Gavin Newsom's initiative to advance distance learning and help bridge the digital divide. First Partner Jennifer Siebel-Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and State Board of Education President Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond will lead the Governor's cross-sector partnership to provide computers and tablets to 70,000 students while schools are closed due to COVID-19.
TruConnect issued its own call for the State to expand mobile broadband services to the 4.5 million low-income residents who are eligible for but do not yet receive free wireless through California LifeLine. That figure does not include the coronavirus-induced wave of nearly 3 million new unemployment applicants over the last month.
"Governor Newsom is right that we cannot allow the digital divide to widen while we shelter-in-place, particularly for California's students and their families," said TruConnect Co-CEO Nathan Johnson. "We see free mobile broadband services through California LifeLine as a critical tool in the toolkit to connect our communities to educational, health, and financial resources necessary to make it through the COVID-19 crisis."
TruConnect is working with anti-poverty leaders at the Western Center on Law and Poverty and Greenlining Institute to expand the California LifeLine program to serve those unenrolled Californians, who are over-represented in the Central Valley and the state's rural communities, and identify ways to use free wireless broadband to expand the safety net for low-income residents who need emergency services now more than ever during the COVID-19 crisis.
The California Lifeline program is administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in order to provide affordable mobile phone services to eligible households through certified providers such as TruConnect.
TruConnect provides California LifeLine service to nearly 225,000 Californians most impacted by the coronavirus across the state. 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 that enables broadband learning and telehealth. TruConnect phones are loaded with food security apps to access CalFresh, free lunch programs and foodbanks, with links to health resources and e-learning solutions for non-profit charities. Earlier in the month, all TruConnect customers received a text message with a link to apply for state unemployment benefits through their phone.
Unfortunately, the LifeLine has historically been underfunded and inadequately supported, with a 2019 California Legislative Analyst's Office report noting that "program enrollment increased significantly after adding wireless in 2014, but then leveled off in 2016 and has been declining in recent years." The report recommended a series of reforms, including "a statewide marketing and outreach plan to help improve overall program awareness among eligible households" that has not yet materialized.
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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