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The City of Portland, Oregon

Office for Community Technology

Broadband & Communications Policy, Cable Regulation & Consumer Protection and Utility Franchises, Licenses & Wireless

Phone: 503-823-5385

111 SW Columbia St, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97201

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Consolidated Appropriations Act

Emergency Broadband Benefit - $3.2 billion

The December 2020 stimulus bill (Consolidated Appropriations Act) “invests $7 billion to increase access to broadband, including a new Emergency Broadband Benefit to help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic.” $3.2 billion of these funds will go toward the emergency relief fund (Emergency Broadband Benefit - EBB), a program that will help subsidize the cost of internet service for qualifying households. 

What we know so far: 

PowerPoint Summary

The program includes up to $50 in monthly payments for internet service, paid directly to the internet service provider. The bill states that the benefit is “a monthly discount for an eligible household applied to the actual amount charged to such household, which shall be no more than the standard rate for an Internet service offering and associated equipment, in an amount equal to such amount charged, but not more than $50.” (residents living on Tribal lands qualify for $75 per household subsidy)

Lifeline subscribers are also eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit. Participants may receive both benefits, either on the same or different services.  

A start date for the program has not yet been announced. The FCC has 60 days from the date the legislation passes to set program rules and processes. ISP participation in the program is voluntary. We have reason to believe that Comcast will participate in the program, since the FCC is to automatically approve any providers that have been operating, since April 1, 2020, a discounted program for verified low-income households (i.e. Comcast Internet Essentials). Consumers could also elect to have Comcast Xfinity internet service. We will update on other provider's participation as it becomes available. 

January 4: FCC Public Notice seeking public comment on the EBB. Initial comment deadline is January 25 and reply deadline is February 16. OCT is working closely with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and National League of Cities to coordinate comments. 

Benton Institute published this informative post about the bill and the Public Notice. 

January 25 comments filed: FCC Filings Record

If you have outstanding broadband bills, you are still likely eligible to qualify for the benefits program, if your household meets the FCC’s guidelines for the agency’s Lifeline program, is approved for any school breakfast or lunch program, is a Pell Grant recipient, is currently qualified for a low-income internet plan, or if “at least one member of the household has experienced a substantial loss of income* since February 29, 2020”. *you can prove loss of employment with an application for unemployment benefits, as well as a furlough or layoff notice.

Participating ISPs can receive up to $100 reimbursement for a laptop, desktop, computer or tablet. Only one device per household. Participating providers have to certify that the amount for which they are seeking reimbursement is not more than the standard rate, and that each eligible household is charged between $10 and $50 for the device.

USAC will be responsible for conducting audits of the Emergency Broadband Program the program. 

Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives - $285 million

The Act also provides $300 million for the creation of the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives within NTIA to engage in digital inclusion efforts including: 

-collaborate with Federal Agencies to facilitate broadband internet service programs and expand them to anchor communities.

-collaborate with State, local, and Tribal governments, historically Black colleges or universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges or Universities, Minority-serving institutions, and stakeholders in various fields to support digital inclusion efforts for the recipients’ respective communities. 

 

For more information about the relief bill's broadband and digital inclusion resources, check out NDIA's overview of the relief bill here.

Digital Literacy Training Resources

Chromebooks

Instructions on how to set up a Chromebook, create a Google account and get started using a Chromebook.

In addition, check out these how-to videos to learn about Chromebook accessibility features, the Google Play Store, G-Suite and Google Drive, data protection and privacy, video conferencing and more. 

  • Chromebook Basics - Watch in English or Spanish.
  • Chromebook Accessibility Features - Watch in English or Spanish.
  • Troubleshooting your Chromebook - Watch in English or Spanish.
  • Data Protection and Privacy for Chromebooks - Watch in English or Spanish.
  • Introduction to the Google Play Store - Watch in English or Spanish.
  • Introduction to G-Suite for Chromebook - Watch in English or Spanish.
  • Getting and Using Apps from Google Play - Watch in English or Spanish.
  • Maintaining and Getting Support for you Chromebooks - Watch in English or Spanish.
  • Using Chromebooks for Video Meetings - Watch in English or Spanish.

iPads

Thanks to generous collaboration from Community Vision's The Assistive Technology (AT) Lab, learn how to set up an iPad and use the accessibility features.

DIN Database Goes Live!

DIN database website header 

Through engagement with DIN members it became clear that there are digital literacy programs, services and training programs and tools already developed and available locally; however, DIN members and other community-based organizations (CBO) serving marginalized and vulnerable residents had trouble tracking what was available, how to best use the resources, and how to connect residents to services. 

screenshot of the DIN Database website showing database is searchable by service and location

This searchable directory of digital inclusion training classes, free WiFi locations, free or low-cost computer resources, public computing centers, tech support, etc. was deigned by and for DIN members and the CBO community by Multnomah County Library through generous grant support from the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission. 

As CBOs interact with residents to help them with education, employment, voting, citizenship, housing, legal and health services, etc. we hope this directory of resources builds and supports their organization's capacity to provide services effectively and efficiently.

Through collaboration on the information contained in the directory, we aim to maintain a robust database of resources that allow DIN members and others to share training materials and identify opportunities, challenges and resource gaps, and develop solutions to better serve our digitally disconnected residents. 

  • SEARCH the directory by Categories, Languages, Services or Tags
  • SHARE resources, information, notifications, events, opportunities, needs, etc. by sending us Feedback 

COVID Response: Technology Kit Pilot and CARES Act Resources

OCT, in partnership with the City's Smart City PDX program staff, is leading efforts to coordinate local resources and actions to help close the digital divide for low-income Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, individuals with disabilities, and seniors. 

CARES Act Resources

On July 22, 2020 the City of Portland allocated $3.5 million in CARES Act funding to support expanding the services provided under the Technology Kit Pilot to reach at least 3500 low-income residents. In October, the City allocated an additional $1.5 million in CARES Act funds to support additional Internet assistance subsidies.

Project design incorporates the following priorities from stakeholders:

  • Meet the needs of as many individuals and families as possible from priority frontline communities through partnerships with community organizations that serve these communities.
  • Maximize the functionality, cost and efficiency of devices and Internet options.
  • Develop operational support for frontline community organizations to partner in this work.
  • Center community leadership in the project design, implementation, and outcomes.

24 Community Partners are participating in the CARES Act Technology Kit project. Through these partnerships we will deliver 3,500 Chromebooks, 508 iPads, digital literacy training, assistive technology tools, 500 Chromebooks with built-in LTE connectivity, and 8,429 Internet assistance cards to cover the cost of at least a year of Internet service for Portland residents.

Technology Kit project Community Partners:

  • A MIRacle Foundation, Inc
  • African Refugee Immigrant Organization
  • Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon
  • Black Education Achievement Movement
  • Black Mental Health Oregon
  • Bradley Angle
  • Brown Hope
  • Ethiopian and Eritrean Cultural and Resources Center
  • Hacienda Community Development Corporation
  • Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization
  • KairosPDX
  • Latino Network
  • Native American Youth and Family Center
  • North by Northeast Community Health Center
  • Portland Indigenous Marketplace
  • Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc.
  • Self Enhancement, Inc.
  • Somali American Council of Oregon
  • The Arc of Multnomah-Clackamas Counties
  • The Islamic Center of Portland, Masjed As-Saber
  • The National Association for Black Veterans, Inc. Portland Chapter #0032
  • The Rosewood Initiative
  • Urban League of Portland
  • Verde

Technology Kit Pilot

In March, the City received a donation of 200 Chromebooks from CTL, a Chrome device distributor headquartered in Beaverton, OR. 

In response to the critical need to get devices into the hands of low-income students, who were faced with unplanned distance learning and no access to devices, the City deployed 100 Chromebooks to Reynolds School District. As a result, the school district was able to quickly deploy the devices to students in need.

The remaining 100 Chromebooks were deployed into the community through a Technology Kit Pilot (Pilot) project. Through the Pilot, the City established partnerships with community based organizations working with low-income, disconnected residents to deploy the Chromebooks. As a matching contribution to CTL's donation, the City, through OCT's operating budget, dedicated funds to pay the Internet service cost for eligible residents that received the free Chromebooks for a year. The subsidized Internet service offer was provided through a sponsored service agreement between the City of Portland, Office for Community Technology and Comcast for Comcast's Internet Essential service.  

COVID Response Digital Inclusion Network Efforts

When public health requires social distancing and even quarantine, closing the digital divide becomes central to our safety and economic security. The Digital Inclusion Network (DIN) has been collaboratively working under the Digital Equity Action Plan framework to overcome barriers faced by under-served populations to affordable, high-speed Internet access, owning a device, and to building confidence to use these tools effectively and safely. As a result of COVID-19 many DIN members are having to shift, re-prioritize, and innovate new ways to serve. As a result, DIN members expressed a desire to be able to share with each other, and the broader community, the efforts undertaken, the ideas brewing, and the needs/challenges they are facing. To quickly respond to this request we have developed an "Action Tracker" and "Resource Document" for DIN members to begin sharing their activities and needs and for us to provide updates on policies, programs, and services that have come online in response to the health crisis. 

DIN Action Tracker and Resource document

The Action Tracker is our short term response to tracking digital equity needs and actions and we envision this pilot Digital Inclusion Dashboard, which uses GIS maps of digital inclusion conditions and DIN/DEAP actions, as our longer term solution to tracking impact, ensuring our actions are leading with race, identifying gaps in service and who we are serving, and using the information to evolve, enhance, and re-direct actions and policy to lead with racial equity. If you'd like to learn more, get involved in the dashboard project design and give feedback, help populate with data and measurable goals, please contact us at digitalequity@portlandoregon.gov.