San Rafael, CA – With the help of a new innovative project, 25 Marin County families now have access to high-speed internet and 25 other families are lined up to receive the same boost in digital access. The Shoreline Connectivity Project is part of a collaboration to bridge the digital divide in West Marin – specifically focusing on lower-income households.
Already, it’s made a world of difference for a Tomales mother. “I wanted to give thanks for the support Shoreline Connectivity Project has given me and my children,” she said. “It has been of great help to my children's schooling. They are able to finish their homework without needing to go to the library. We are now able to do this and have the time to also sit and enjoy a movie as a family. I give thanks to all of the people who made this a possibility."
Families in West Marin have contributed to the installation of Starlink kits that provide first-rate broadband access.
The digital divide became more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools switched to online education out of public health necessity. Effectively supporting students in school, engaging with available services, and accessing resources all require a device and internet connection. Within the Shoreline Unified School District (SUSD), serving families in the northern rural areas of Marin reaching up to Sonoma County, many families were faced with inadequate internet connectivity that made it challenging for students to participate in distance learning.
With urgency to provide a solution quickly, a strategic multi-agency collaboration response was required, which included county departments, local nonprofit organizations, and the Shoreline Unified School District. Parent Services Project, which offers a program focused on digital equity and digital literacy, directly connected with families and family advocates at SUSD to help identify those in most need.
Marin County Free Library (MCFL) and Marin County Information Services and Technology (IST) brought forward the innovative technology solutions, devices, and asset management while Marin Promise Partnership provided project management and data analysis. This project is funded by the American Rescue Act’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, SUSD, Marin Community Foundation, West Marin Fund, and Pinkus Family Foundation.
“This was a natural partnership to serve West Marin,” said Marin IST Chief Assistant Director Javier Trujillo “With the existing programming and resources of our partners, their strong community relationships, and a new innovative technology (low-orbit satellite) we saw a path forward.”
“Meeting community where they are, removing barriers, and increasing access to technology align with MCFL’s Education Equity initiatives to help close the opportunity gap for students in Marin,” added Raemona Little Taylor, MCFL Deputy Director.
The program is funded to provide 50 families high-speed internet access for three years leveraging the successful and established Impact Technology, a tech-equity program offered by the Parent Services Project.
Parent Services Project is focused on improving digital equity by creating an uplift of digital skills, knowledge, and understanding so that all parents and caregivers can take a leadership role in their children's education and confidently engage with teachers and staff in a meaningful way.
“We continue to be heavily reliant on technology to work, communicate and connect,” said Balandra Fregoso, Parent Services Project Executive Director. “At PSP, we believe that access to high-quality internet and the knowledge to use it, is a human right. Unfortunately, many families have been and continue to be left without these human rights. With the access and skills obtained through this project, parents can more effectively support their students in school as well as have access to a host of information, resources and opportunities.”
Angelica Almanza, Shoreline Connectivity Project Coordinator, added, “While accessibility and reliability play an important role in reaching digital equity, we also aim to empower parents by adding digital literacy training moving toward digital inclusion."
The intention is to extend the capacity of the project in both the number of families it supports and the duration. Support the project with a donation or contact Balandra Fregoso at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Those interested in the big-picture plans to continue with connectivity progress should check the Digital Marin Strategic Plan. Learn more on the Marin County Free Library webpage.