Local Government COVID-19 Digital Inclusion ResponseState Government ResponsesFree and Low Cost Internet Offers
The global health pandemic has put a spotlight on digital inclusion. NDIA is documenting new digital inclusion initiatives by local governments –, as well as major community-wide initiatives in which local governments are key participants — in order to encourage other local governments to address access to the internet (particularly at home), personal computers and tablets, and tech assistance. These initiatives are in addition to the FCC’s Keeping American’s Connected Pledge.
This page details COVID-driven initiatives by local governments, and by community partnerships or coalitions with local government leadership, across four categories:
- Expansion of free public wifi (boosting wifi at public buildings parking lots, nearby housing, etc.)
- Providing easily accessible and user friendly information about free and low cost internet options from wireline and mobile providers
- Providing subsidies for home broadband service
- Supporting gap networks (hyper local networks built to address affordability) through regulation, technical assistance, bulk equipment purchasing, and funding.
- Locally funded broadband deployment grantees are required to have a low-cost offer.
- Locally funded broadband deployment grantees are required to financially support digital inclusion programs.
- Provides financial support to local organizations conducting outreach and guidance for federal broadband programs.
- Providing subsidies for devices
- Providing financial support of nonprofit computer refurbishers who sell devices at a discounted rate
- Provides computers to non-profit refurbishers which will then be made available to low-income households.
Tech Support & Digital Literacy
- Provides or funds tech assistance hotlines, digital navigator programs (1:1 device, connectivity and tech support).
- Funds digital literacy training.
Planning & Coordination Capacity
- Coordinates, provides facilitation/administrative support, provides technical assistance for and/or funds local coalition building.
- Coordinates, provides facilitation/administrative support, provides technical assistance for and/or funds coalition building.
- Has a local digital equity office or dedicated digital equity staff in another office.
- Has a stand alone digital equity plan or digital equity components in a local broadband plan.
- Has an interagency task force to educate agencies and help them develop approaches to digital equity.
It should be noted that unless it is specifically identified, utility shut off orders do not protect broadband subscriptions.
“The absence of broadband internet connections in so many American homes, at a time when we need to stay in our homes, is a public health crisis in its own right… People without online tools to take care of their basic needs at home are not going to stay at home.”
This list will be updated as more local governments develop digital inclusion strategies. If you have additional information, please send to [email protected].
- The Digital Empowerment Community of Austin (DECA) organized a COVID-19 Community Resource List into four categories: General Resources, Internet Service Provider Information, Computer Access, and Using the Internet and Online Learning Resources
- The Cambridge-Isanti School District has allocated CARES Act funding to purchase 1,200 Chromebooks to allow students access to devices for the 2020-2021 school year
- Albemarle County, including the city of Charlottesville, has created a Broadband Initiative Page, describing internet access options available from private ISPs and the expansion of parking lot wifi.
- Locations of Albemarle County Wifi Hotspots are available on the Albemarle County Public Wifi Hotspots map.
- The City of Charlotte has committed $3.25 million to strategies combating the city’s digital divide, including access to public Wi-Fi networks on transit and in select public spaces and residential areas, Learning Labs and a Digital Navigators program and hotline.
- The Enterprise Center, working in partnership with the University of Tennessee’s GIS department, offers a Free Public WiFi mapping tool via techgoeshomecha.org/wifi
- List of low-cost connectivity options and offers: techgoeshomecha.org/low-cost-internet.
- Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot of Chicago announced the launch of ‘Chicago Connected,’ a program that aims provide free high-speed internet service to approximately 100,000 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students in their households.
- The Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga County and T-Mobile today announced the creation of the Greater Cleveland Digital Equity Fund, which will aim to address immediate and long-term needs surrounding broadband access, computing devices, digital literacy, and technology support.
- The George Gund Foundation announced a $1 million grant to support digital access needs for Cleveland Metropolitan School District students and Say Yes scholars who lack the necessary technology access and devices to learn remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, including hotspots, Wi-Fi access and laptops.
- Greater Cleveland Digital Equity Coalition members are seeking additional refurbishable computers to distribute throughout the community. If individuals, organizations and corporations are interested in donating used technology, please contact PCs for People at (216) 600-0014 or e-mail [email protected].
- Columbus City Schools (CCS) announced the city will use $7 million of CARES Act funding to purchase 20,000 Chromebooks for CCS students.
- Columbus City Council has passed legislation to reimburse the Columbus Partnership with $500,000 in federal CARES Act money to pay for broadband equipment and services for Columbus students.
- Operation Connectivity aims to connect all Texas public school students with a device and reliable internet connection. The initiative addresses issues of technology, policy, and funding to provide a pathway for Local Education Agencies to connect their students.
- The Community Education Commission (CEC) of Detroit has published a database of digital inclusion resources made available to residents via the Connect313Directory website.
- Hamilton County School District has partnered with the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga to give families in the EPB service area with students who participate in HCS EdConnect a router and 100 mbps internet service at no charge.
- The City of Kansas City, MO. is partnering with Connecting for Good to produce refurbished computers, laptops, tablets, monitors and other electronics through the City’s Digital Upcycling Program. The program prioritizes: (1) Kansas City residents who have completed a course in digital life skills; (2) community learning centers; and (3) public-private partner organizations implementing programs in support of the City’s Digital Equity Strategic Plan.
- The King County Council approved a third round of emergency funding to the amount of $86.2 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including funding to support digital equity (see pg.10) in K-12 schools.
- The City of Long Beach is convening the COVID-19 Digital Inclusion Response Working Group to ensure that unconnected and under-connected communities in Long Beach have equitable access and use of digital literacy training, the Internet and technology devices during COVID-19.
- The City of Long Beach has compiled COVID-19 related Digital Inclusion Community Resources in order to ensure that Long Beach residents have access to digital inclusion community resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The City of Long Beach is also partnering with the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), EveryoneOn and hu
man-I-T in launching ConnectedLB Platform, allowing Long Beach residents to access low-cost Internet services, computers and digital literacy resources in affiliation with CETF’s Get Connected Initiative. To access the Platform, visit everyoneon.org/longbeach .
- The City of Long Beach launched the Digital Inclusion Resources Hotline (Hotline) as part of the City’s CARES Act funding efforts. The Hotline is a community connector to digital inclusion resources and services. Digital Inclusion Navigators are available by phone to help Long Beach residents find information about local low-cost Internet service offers, computers and free digital literacy training classes.
- City of Long Beach received $1 million in CARES Act funding for digital inclusion efforts. City staff will be working closely with for-profit and community-based organizations to implement the following digital inclusion resources and services (e.g. administering free Internet service plans, hotspots, computers; implementing a device lending program; technical support and virtual digital literacy training classes).
- The Long Beach Technology and Innovation Department (TI) in partnership with human-I-T and the Long Beach Public Library (LBPL) is helping connect Long Beach residents to free digital inclusion resources through more than 550 free tablets with keyboards and 250 mobile hotspots and one-year paid internet service plans. Long Beach residents can apply for the program by calling the City’s Digital Inclusion Resources Hotline at 562.570.7000 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Proof of qualifying income of 200% below the Federal Poverty Guidelines will be required for all applicants. For additional information, residents can email or text [email protected]
- Longmont’s municipal high-speed fiber optic broadband internet service is expanding its free home connections access program for income-eligible families of St. Vrain Valley School District students.
- The City of Los Angeles is partnering with the California Emerging Technology Fund and EveryoneOn to provide options for low-cost internet, access to computers, and digital literacy services to its residents through its Get Connected program, as well as device and digital training resources.
- The city has also listed corporate and nonprofit organizations providing support, and an assistance service contact line (311) and app, MyLA311.
Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced a new initiative to deliver six months of free internet access to residents in four public housing communities across Los Angeles.
- The City of Louisville has created a free internet for students page outlining free internet offers to families with students by ISPs operating in the area.
New York City
- The NYC Education Department is making 300,000 internet-enabled iPads available to the highest-need students via an online survey (available in ten languages) or hotline: 718-935-5100 (press 5).
- New York City has pledged $157 million towards ending digital redlining, providing high-speed internet and accelerating broadband deployment in all five boroughs, prioritizing public housing communities. The money, originally intended for the New York Police Department, will be reallocated to closing the digital divide in the city.
- Governor Cuomo Announces Proposal to Enact a First-In-The-Nation Guarantee of Affordable Internet for Low-Income Families
- The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology is updating a site listing low-cost internet and wifi access.
- Additional links on the page direct users to other resources such as EveryoneOn and the NDIA website.
- PHLConnectED will connect up to 35,000 eligible K-12 student households with high-speed internet service in Philadelphia for up to two years. Participants will not pay any out-of-pocket expenses or installation fees.
- The City’s Office for Community Technology has developed an Action Tracker in order to facilitate the sharing of activities, policy updates, programs and services that are available online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic amongst its Digital Inclusion Network (DIN) members.
- Portland has created a Resource Sheet as a platform for sharing information relating to connectivity, devices, online training programs, public policy initiatives and non-profit support and funding amongst its Digital Inclusion Network members.
- The Fund for Portland Public Schools and Comcast’s Oregon/SW Washington region announced a business partnership providing any Portland Public School family internet connectivity free of charge.
- The City of Portland has deployed 100 Chromebooks to it’s Reynolds School District, and a further 100 to low-income, disconnected residents, dedicating funds to pay the Internet service cost for those residents that for 12 months.
- The City of Portland has allocated $3.5 million in CARES Act funding to support expanding the services provided under the Technology Kit Pilot to reach at least 3500 low-income residents.
- Ramsey County has partnered with Tech Dump, Literacy Minnesota and Saint Paul Public Library through the TechPak initiative to invest a portion of Minnesota’s CAREs Act funding into providing its community with refurbished laptops, hotspots, QuickStart guides, pre-loaded bookmarks to assist in job searches and training and access to a Digital Literacy Navigator who will assist with digital literacy assessments and North Star Digital Literacy trainings.
Riverside County in California is using $1 million in CARES Act money for the purchase of digital devices for adult education students.
- Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has committed $500,000 of the $89 million it received in federal funding to provide 10,000 households containing seniors or school-aged children with free high-speed internet, as well as up to 1000 free devices such as laptops and Wi-Fi hot spots.
Salt Lake County
- Salt Lake County has provided $10 million of CARES Act funding to five of its school districts to assist in technology and staffing needs with regards to computers, cameras and software in enabling teachers to offer online and hybrid learning curricula.
- The City of San Antonio, California, has announced a plan to invest over $27 million to address the digital divide in the city.
- The City of San Antonio has plans to build LTE wireless broadband connections using existing fiber-optic cable networks as part of its plan to connect 20,000 students’ homes to schools’ wireless networks.
- The City of San Jose is partnering with AT&T, Verizon and Mobilitie to invest $1.5 million in providing 4,200 small-cell wireless network antennas on streetlight poles, so as to provide every student with digital tools and connectivity.
- The City of San Rafael nears the launch of its Canal Wi-Fi network, an initiative to increase internet access in the City’s Canal Neighborhood as part of a multi-tiered approach in addressing issues of digital equity and digital inclusion.
Santa Clara County
- Santa Clara County is providing $7.1 million to help bridge the digital divide as students continue to learn from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Santa Clara Board of Supervisors have unanimously approved a plan aimed specifically at connecting low-income adults into all countywide digital inclusion projects.
- The City of Seattle has updated the Office of the Mayor’s COVID-19 response page to include information on low-income internet offerings and changes to wired and wireless service offerings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- St. Louis County is using $4 million in CARES Act funding to close the county’s internet access gap for virtual schooling. In collaboration with the St. Louis County Library, 12,500 hot spots will be available, as well as 2,500 tablets and Chromebooks. The offer is available to any child who goes to a school in St. Louis County, without exception.
- The City of Tucson is implementing a free Wi-Fi program using existing infrastructure aimed at providing internet access to 53,000 households in digitally underserved parts of the city.
- The City of Wilson (NC) has established a program to connect public housing residents to $10/month internet access. The network targets barriers to service adoption including a flex-pay system allowing users to prepay for Internet access, and allows the loading of funds into accounts for individual days of network access.
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