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Philadelphia to provide free internet for 35,000 low-income families

The pandemic has shown us all how important it is to be connected to the Internet. The problem, however, is that millions of Americans still live without a reliable connection to the web, which is especially problematic for kids considering the school year is just around the corner and is expected to take place online in many parts of the country.

To solve this issue, city officials in Philadelphia announced a plan to provide free internet access for 35,000 low-income families that currently lack it. Under the plan — which will cost $17 million, paid for with a mixture of philanthropic, school, and local CARES Act funding — some households will be wired for free broadband access via Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, and other families will receive at no charge wireless hot spots purchased by the city from T-Mobile.

Families with children enrolled in the Philadelphia School District and charter schools are eligible for internet access, as are children in Catholic or other private schools; district and charter schools have provided or will provide laptops or tablets for each student. Under the plan, families will also have access to “digital navigators” charged with providing technical support. Families will be guaranteed free access for two years, but city officials said they mean to continue the program given adequate financial support.

Mayor Jim Kenney called the announcement a “transformational moment” triggered by the pandemic. He said the program will “make a powerful impact on lessening the digital divide.”

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