Free Internet Coming For 35,000 Low-Income Philly Families in Public-Private Partnership As Classrooms Stay Closed
Philadelphia wants to ensure that all its K-12 students have internet access, so they have what they need to learn remotely during the pandemic, especially as the city’s schools will remain closed to in-person classes this fall.
Since the coronavirus forced the school closures this spring, the city has been working with foundations and partners to mobilize funding that will provide broadband internet access for 35,000 kids—and this week they’ve unveiled a program that will make it happen.
PHLConnectED will connect eligible student households with two years of high-speed internet, without any out-of-pocket expenses or installation fees.
Using Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, or a high-speed mobile hotspot for families who are housing-insecure, the program will also ensure K-12 public school students have the devices they need (such as a laptop or tablet)—and also tech support to keep it all running smoothly.
The Philadelphia School District recently distributed over 128,000 devices to students who lack them at home. The School District and Charter Schools will continue to work with schools and families to make sure they have the resources they need to succeed.
PHLConnectED is the first stage of the city’s larger “digital equity” initiative to support digital literacy and access for all Philadelphia residents.
The bulk of the funding is being provided by private foundations, including $7 million from the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, $1 million each from the William Penn Foundation and Philadelphia School Partnership, and others. The city will also use $2 million in local CARES Act funding, without dipping into its general fund, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Mayor Jim Kenney said it was “transformational moment” triggered by the pandemic, and the program will go a long way to closing the digital divide.