October 23, 1998

Eight California community coalitions and Pacific Bell to launch $50 million in community technology grants

San Francisco — A $50 million initiative to promote access to the information superhighway in California's low income, underserved communities will be launched next month by nine statewide community coalitions and Pacific Bell.

The coalitions, representing 134 Latino, Asian American, African American, civil rights, and disability organizations, are incorporating a new non-profit foundation that will distribute at least $5 million each year for the next decade. Pacific Bell is providing financing and technical expertise.

The grantmaking focus will be bringing existing and new communications technologies to traditionally disadvantaged communities in California.

The $50 million fund is part of a unique partnership between Pacific Bell and the community groups stemming from the 1997 merger between Pacific Telesis and SBC Communications. The California Public Utilities Commission approved their plan as part of the merger and then gave the green light to a detailed implementation plan this past July.

The nonprofit corporation and grants will assist those communities defined as low-income, inner-city, minority, disabled, limited-English-speaking, and low-income senior. Representatives of the statewide community coalitions hailed the establishment of the organization as a landmark for community telecommunications and a "model for the nation."

Ed Whitacre, chairman and chief executive officer of SBC Communications, the parent company of Pacific Bell, will present the first $10 million to the fund at a ceremony in Los Angeles in mid-November.

For Pacific Bell, the fund is part of its strategic initiative to make sure the telecommunications revolution —new technologies and competitive markets— benefits all California communities, not just the more lucrative residential and business districts traditionally targeted by competitors.

The Pacific Bell Community Technology Fund is one of four major initiatives negotiated by this extraordinary group of nine coalitions working together to secure the full benefits of basic and advanced telecommunications and information services in California's low income and traditionally under-served communities.

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