Verizon Launches $25M Fund To Benefit Underserved Californians.

Verizon Communications and more than a dozen leading community advocacy groups in California launched an independent $25 million fund that will benefit community and educational programs serving the state’s low-income, minority, ethnic and other “underserved” communities.

The fund, to be known as the Community Collaborative Fund, will have an independent administrator who will oversee the distribution of grants.

“The Community Collaborative Fund ensures that California’s traditionally underserved communities will benefit from the sweeping changes we are seeing in the telecommunications industry,” said Verizon Pacific Region President Tim McCallion. “With this fund, Verizon is demonstrating its long-term commitment to Californians – a commitment that will live on beyond the life of the fund.”

Verizon presented the first installment of $2.5 million to the independent administrator, the California Consumer Protection Foundation (CCPF). The foundation will accept grant proposals and determine which programs will receive funding. CCPF will direct the money to programs throughout the state that provide access to telecommunications and information services, education and telemedicine and programs that promote literacy and economic development in low-income, ethnic, minority, limited-English-speaking and disabled communities.

“By working as partners, Verizon and these community groups will strive to ensure that we meet the changing needs of disadvantaged communities over the coming decade,” said CCPF Executive Director Nelson Holl.

Members of a Community Collaborative Committee selected the fund administrator through a competitive bid process. The committee includes representatives of African Americans for Telecommunications Equity, the Alliance for Public Technology, the American G.I. Forum, the Asian Pacific American Community Partnership, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, California/Nevada Community Action, the Community Technology Council, the Greenlining Institute, the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, the Latino Issues Forum, the Los Angeles Urban League, the National Council of Negro Women, the Oxnard School Board, Public Advocates, the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Universal Service Alliance, Verizon, the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce and the World Institute on Disability.

The groups hailed the Community Collaborative Fund as a major step toward providing underserved communities with access to telecommunications and information services, telemedicine and programs that promote education, literacy, and economic development.

“Community partnerships like the Verizon collaborative create fertile environments which produce significant benefits to social problems such as the digital divide,” said John Gamboa, executive director of the Greenlining Institute.

“I have great hopes for the benefits that will flow to underserved communities in the state of California as a result of this fund,” said Barbara O’Connor, professor of communications at California State University, Sacramento. O’Connor is also director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media and founding chair of the Alliance for Public Technology. “Only when community-based organizations can design and implement programs that uniquely meet the needs of their clients will the benefits of telecommunications technology flow to the rest of California’s diverse populations,” O’Connor said.

“These funds are critical investments in narrowing the digital divide and represent a creative and substantial response in providing access to both basic and advanced services for our vulnerable and low-income communities in California,” said Viola Gonzales, executive director of Latino Issues Forum.

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