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Free wi-fi hotspots coming for disadvantaged NYC school students

One-third of Brooklyn families lack internet access

September 29, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
City schools will be partnering with library systems, Google and Sprint to offer free Wi-Fi hotspots to high-needs public school students and families. Shown above: Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking with students at a recent technology-related event. Photo by Michael Appleton
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In an age where the internet is ubiquitous and essential, it’s shocking to learn that a substantial percentage of New York City public school students lack an internet connection at home.

In Brooklyn, one-third of kids don’t have access to the internet after school, leaving them unable to complete homework assignments and causing them to fall behind their classmates. Across the city as a whole, one-fifth of students lack access to the internet.

To help remedy this situation, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced on Thursday that the city is partnering with its three library systems, Google and Sprint to offer free Wi-Fi hotspots available for year-long rental to public school students and families.

The initiative – which builds on a Library HotSpot pilot program – will launch in 46 library branches across the city, primarily in disadvantaged neighborhoods with low internet connectivity.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The branches, which are run by the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library and Queens Library, are all located near Department of Education (DOE) Community Schools, which serve provide extra services to students in high-need neighborhoods.

In Brooklyn, 16 library branches are participating. They include the Brownsville, Bushwick, Canarsie, Clarendon, Crown Heights, Cypress Hills, DeKalb, Kings Bay, Macon, New Lots, Red Hook, Saratoga, Stone Avenue, Sunset Park, Walt Whitman and Washington Irving libraries.

“We’re committed to Equity and Excellence for all New York City students, and this will help create expanded opportunities for students to complete homework, research, and thrive outside of school,” Chancellor Fariña said in a statement.

DOE’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda includes a range of policy initiatives to support students across the city, especially those in underserved areas.

Desmond White, chief information officer for DOE, said that the program will help students to continue learning after the school day and on the weekend, one of the goals of the school system.

“If one-third of all New York City households were without electricity or indoor plumbing, we would be rightly appalled – yet somehow, in 2016, one in three Brooklyn families remains on the wrong side of the digital divide, unable to access the transformative power of the internet at home,” said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda Johnson.

Google donated $1 million to the program. Ben Fried, Google’s chief information officer, called the program “a simple, effective way to help address the digital inequity in our school system so that every child has the chance to learn and participate in our modern economy.”

“It is with great pride and purpose that Sprint supports the [White House’s] ConnectED initiative and in doing so makes this contribution to the New York City Department of Education,” said Karen Paletta, Sprint regional president.

Eligibility to borrow one of the 5,000 free hotspots extends to city residents who are over 18, report no internet at home, report having at least one public school student in grades pre-K through 12, have a fine-free library card, and attend a lending event at one of the participating branches. There is a limit of one hotspot per family and the hotspots are loaned for one year.



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