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CPUC Taps Maximus to Spearhead Accessibility Projects

The California Public Utilities Commission is partnering with Maximus to oversee its California Connect program, which provides services to the state’s deaf and disabled residents through new technologies, policies and advocacy.

A deaf student wearing an assistive hearing device and watching someone instructing on a laptop.
To enhance accessibility and inclusivity through telecommunications, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is collaborating with government services provider Maximus to oversee its California Connect program.

California Connect is the state’s Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program (DDTP), which offers communication services and equipment to eligible Californians with hearing, vision, cognitive, mobility, and speech-related disabilities. Maximus was chosen by CPUC to lead program and contract administration services across various capacities.

In a recent interview with Industry Insider — California, Brent Jolley, the DDTP project and program manager, and Rick DiLollo, a senior director at Maximus, discussed the scope and objectives of their partnership.

Jolley explained that the collaboration materialized through a comprehensive solicitation and contracting process with CPUC. Maximus will now oversee the performance of individual contractors working within the California Connect program as well as engaging the community and advisory committees to gain and incorporate feedback about the quality of services.

“Maximus will analyze a variety of data and information to ensure that a certain baseline of quality is being provided to the program consumers, while also providing oversight of the funding component of the program to guide appropriate use within state and federal guidelines,” Jolley said.

DiLollo shared more information on the crucial advisory role Maximus will play in spearheading technology integration.

“We’re here to ensure that vendor partners are meeting their objectives and advising on the best technologies, such as the new customer portals implemented in the California Lifeline program, an initiative that provides discounted home phone and cellphone services for eligible households,” he said. “Our central aim is to leverage technology to enhance service delivery and efficiency.”

According to DiLollo, Maximus will also assist in identifying and implementing tools and dashboards that will enable the CPUC to closely monitor the performance of vendors, ensuring they meet their objectives. DiLollo noted that full training and customization of these dashboard tools are included in their services to ensure that CPUC has the information it needs readily available.

Another key objective of the partnership is to continue to engage the deaf and disabled communities in both the development and feedback stages of technology implementation.

“We periodically conduct needs assessments,” Jolley explained. “We host focus groups and engage with community-based organizations at a local level, to gain feedback from both rural and urban areas.”

The CPUC advisory committees, including the Telecommunications Access for the Deaf and Disabled Administrative Committee and the Equipment Program Advisory Committee — made up of representatives from various disability groups — will also play a crucial role in offering recommendations and reviewing program developments.

The California Connect program has faced challenges — ones that the CPUC will now rely on Maximus’ administrative leadership and oversight to help address.

“Transitioning from traditional landline-based services to an IP wireless-based ecosystem is one of the biggest challenges faced by the program,” Jolley noted. “The program is fundamentally based on landline services, and collaboration with federal entities is essential to navigating the roles and responsibilities between interstate and intrastate services. Overcoming this challenge is key to modernizing the telecommunications infrastructure for better accessibility.”

When asked what drew Jolley to his work with the CPUC and DDTP program, he had a unique story to share. He said that as a person with disabilities and a former advisory committee member, he brings a unique perspective and dedication to improving telecommunications accessibility.

“My passion is naturally there because of those connections. I’m just continuing to build on that passion to assist my peers,” he said.

Looking ahead, both Jolley and DiLollo envision a future where telecommunications evolve into broader communication tools.

“I think the value or contribution Maximus can make is the integration of the consumer endpoint like the customer portals mentioned and building the infrastructure to improve the customer experience through technology, clear policies, and being an advocate for regulation changes,” Jolley said. “That’s the big value, and we’re excited for the opportunities Maximus will uncover to help meet those needs for our communities.”
Ashley Silver is a staff writer for Government Technology magazine.