State Superintendent’s Task Force Calls for Free Internet for California Students

May 1 announcement from the California Department of Education:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced today that his Closing the Digital Divide Task Force is asking the leaders of major internet service providers to provide free guest access to all of California’s students. Executives from these companies will be asked to speak to their commitment to the state’s most vulnerable students and families at the next task force meeting on Monday, May 4 at 4 p.m., which will be streamed live online.

Superintendent Thurmond created the task force, co-chaired by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), to help close the technological gaps that put millions of students—including those living in remote, rural areas and students living in poverty—at a further academic disadvantage. Executives from all major service providers, including AT&T, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, have been invited to the meeting, which will be livestreamed on the CDE Facebook page.

“California has already come together and stepped up in a big way to provide donations of hotspots, laptops, and other devices to help students access distance learning. But without reliable internet access, too many students are missing out on a high-quality and meaningful education and the ability to connect to their teachers,” said Thurmond. “Going forward, we need to focus on efforts to improve internet access in order to close opportunity and achievement gaps for all California’s students—not just during this public health crisis, but once and for all.”

The Closing the Digital Divide Task Force is working to help facilitate donations, create more publicity, and cast a bigger spotlight on those who can help. Additional task force members include Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), and Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa).

During its first meeting on April 20, the task force heard from cross-sector partners about ways they are working together to strengthen distance learning efforts and close technology gaps for millions of students. The task force also received an update on the CDE’s partnership with the California Public Utilities Commission to distribute a total of $30 million to support internet connectivity as well as updates from Google and Amazon about their donations of thousands of devices and hotspots for students. Thurmond and task force members will continue to meet and use the information and feedback gathered to create a formal plan for closing the digital divide, including timelines, budgetary considerations, and necessary legislative action steps.

The CDE has also partnered with the Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDE Foundation), the private nonprofit partner of the CDE since 2011, to create the California Bridging the Digital Divide Fund. The fund is a joint effort of the Governor’s Office, State Board of Education, CDE, and CDE Foundation. Individual donations may be made at the CBDD Fund page, and corporate and institutional donors may contact Mary Nicely at

To read this press release on the CDE website, click here.