This page is for documenting research on access to computers and Internet in Oakland, active organizations tackling the digital divide, and local ISPs that allow for sharing bandwidth in their Terms of Service.


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics & Bureau of Census, 32% of Oakland residents lack internet connectivity, with an additional 5.6% connected elsewhere but not at home.

The Free Press published a short report on media inequality in the Bay Area in January of 2014. From the report:

  • "AT&T and Comcast are the dominant telecommunications service providers in the Bay Area, though competitive providers like serve small pockets in the North Bay and the peninsula. Broadband adoption in the Bay Area is high relative to the state and national averages. As of June 2011 (the most recent data-reporting period), most portions of the Bay Area had broadband-adoption levels near or above 80 percent of households. But there are numerous neighborhoods in areas like Alameda, Oakland, Richmond and San Jose where broadband adoption is well below the state and national averages. Over the past decade, the California Public Utilities Commission has removed regulations and oversight of the state’s major telecom providers. This deregulation was supposed to lower prices and improve consumer choices, but the rates for basic services tripled in just a few short years."

A 2014 Oakland North article, "OUSD study finds link between lack of Internet, computer access and poverty level" maps out the digital divide among Oakland public schools:

"'I feel a little different, because some people at my school do have Internet access at home' said Stewart, age 13. 'They don’t have to worry, cause they can go home and do it. But I can’t.' Stewart is not the only student in Oakland who faces this kind of difficulty. According to a study conducted by Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in August and September, 14,097 students do not have computers and/or high-speed Internet access at home. That represents about 40 percent of the student population in Oakland."

City of Oakland Wireless Broadband Feasibility Study (2009) - Lengthy report on the feasibility of providing free municipal wifi throughout the city of Oakland. Research included focus groups with representatives from the various districts of Oakland, public comments, and extensive mapping of a wireless network operating on the 2.4GHz and 4.9Mz bands.

  • "Participants made a distinction between "free" and "affordable" service, and overwhelmingly chose not to endorse the provision of free Internet access to businesses and residences. Providing public access, free or otherwise, at public facilities, such as libraries and community centers, or high traffic areas, such as bus shelters, the convention center or the downtown area, was generally seen as a much higher priority than providing residential Internet service of any kind. (p.15)"
  • "The top concern, identified by city staff, businesses, local agencies and six out of seven focus groups, was that any system be flexible and interoperable. In other words, that it can be used by all city departments (although every department wouldn't necessarily need access to all the features and capabilities), that it serve as a means of communications with other public agencies, and that the public can use and benefit directly from it, as appropriate. System reliability (including disaster survivability for emergency systems) and security were also perceived as being necessary by most participants.

Complete coverage of the City and mobile access to real-time data was not seen as a necessary technical requirement by most groups, however both were particular priorities of City staff. Both requirements will have to be met if City of Oakland departments are assumed to be regular users of any citywide wireless broadband system. Additionally, there was a general concern expressed during most focus groups, the town hall meeting and some workshops that all areas of the City be served equally, if not fully. (p.18)"


We've been working on a spreadsheet of Oakland community organizations [grassroots, schools, churches, non-profits, etc], which can be found here.

The following is a curation of organizations addressing the digital divide in Oakland (via Oakland Wiki:

Mesh-friendly ISPs

Some ISPs allow sharing of Internet access and others do not. We provide node owners with a list of local ISPs that are known to allow sharing of Internet access and advise them that some ISPs may not allow sharing. The worst case scenario here is that one or more users get their Internet disconnected for terms of service violation.

The ISPs in the East Bay that allow Internet Connection sharing (that we know of) are:

From deprecated Mesh/Communities page (needs merging with above).


+ = contact(s)

! = rooftop(s)

$ = interested in a space

Italics are relevant musings.


See also prospective node map

  • West Oakland*!$
  • San Antonio*!
  • Adam's Point*!
  • Ghost Town*!
  • Piedmont*
  • Oakland 5th Ave Marina*!


Resilient communication; internship opportunities; mentorship

  • Laney College*$
  • Talk to Hilary Naylor [Oakland Unified School District]


Hooking up library catalogs would be rad... and libraries are the last bastion of nurturing public spaces.

  • Talk to Ivan

Public Areas

Public wifi on the streets and in parks

Cohousing Communities

Hyperlocal economies/sharing/barter/timebank; resilient communication tools; neighborhood watch; storytelling

Urban Farms & Community Gardens

Hook up sensors to be informed eg; if garden needs water, coordinate shifts, info on plant care, cropswap coordination...

Farmer's Markets

Announcing special kinds of produce / advertising healthy local food and crafts/vendors


Organizations Working to End the Digital Divide

It may be possible to get seed funding or community outreach help from organizations that are working to end the "digital divide."

  • FCC Connect America Fund - FCC initiative to expand broadband to underserved communities. Budget up to $4.5 billion per year.
  • FCC National Broadband Plan - A policy-making initiative of the FCC to expand internet access -
  • HUD Connect Home - US Government program through Housing and Urban Development to bring cheap ($10 per month) broadband to underserved areas using existing ISPs -
  • Everyone On - NGO - working to bring affordable 4G service to undeserved communities in the United States - $1.8 million per year in income. Headquartered in Washington DC.
  • Close The Gap - NGO - Mostly focused on providing computers and internet to the developing world. €6.3 million in assets. Headquartered in Belgium.
  • Computers for Everyone - Menlo Park, CA based NGO working to provide reused computers to low income community members -
  • Computers For Classrooms - Chico, CA based NGO working to provide reused computers to low income community members -
  • Computers 4 Kids - Sacramento, CA based NGO working to provide reused computers to low income community members -
  • Oakland Digital - 1224 Harrison St, Oakland - "an award-winning design studio that bridges the opportunity and digital literacy divide among Students, Businesses, and Entrepreneurs" -

Local Businesses

Free wifi attracts new people; community bulletin boards; local media streams


DIY instructables; Microcontroller projects; developing application; community media; community bulletin boards to promote classes and events; find tools / skilled people / projects

Community Media

Local streams from community spaces that foster self-expression, art and politics; archives and zine library; radio podcasts;


By Donation-based gift economies and lending libraries; solidarity organizing; "craigslist free and de facto locally-relevant"


Community events/gathering organizing; skill-sharing; documentation

Worker-Owned Cooperatives

Self-organizing and coordination tools; hyperlocal economies;


These projects are headed by friend's of the mesh group and could plug in in some really interesting ways:

No contacts, but seem interesting:



  • Do a presentation/focus group at LOL
  • Make contacts at schools and libraries
  • Pitch the mesh at an upcoming Open Oakland monthly general meeting
  • curriculum development

Maps of High Demand Areas

Map of the Backbone Fiber, Data Centers and Free Wifi in Oakland and Berkeley

Map of the East Bay


Red Lines = Existing backbone fiber optic lines in the East Bay

Red Dots = Data Centers connected the the internet backbone (which can be used for future exit nodes)

Green Dots = Existing Relay Nodes with internet access

Blue Dots = Existing Mesh Nodes without internet access

Light Gray Dots = Locations with free wifi (which could become future relay nodes)

Dark Gray Dots = Locations that would benefit from free internet