PHILADELPHIA–The City of Philadelphia yesterday announced that historic collaboration between the administration, school district, and business and philanthropic leaders, led to more than 11,000 K-12 families crossing the digital divide since March 13, when area schools first closed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Those 11,000 families include:
- Over 2500 students who received MiFi devices from the school district over the spring and summer;
- More than 7,300 families that signed up for 60 days of free Internet Essentials service and now have their internet bills paid for by PHLConnectED;
- And another thousand families that have been connected directly through PHLConnectED to either Internet Essentials or MiFi devices.
Launched in August, PHLConnectED is funded to connect up to 35,000 low-income K-12 households with internet service and devices. The program, which will also provide digital skills training and tech support for families, was an urgent response to schools moving to virtual learning in the upcoming academic year as a result of the pandemic.
“While the digital divide has been an issue for some time—and admittedly, continues to be—this shows what we can do when we stop assigning blame and work together toward real, long term, sustainable solutions,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “While we don’t know precisely how many families remain that need to be connected, the funding is in place to take care of them. And we are working hard to find them.”
Additional on-the-ground outreach work to identify families in need has begun, including a paid media campaign. Specific neighborhoods that are hard to reach through traditional communications are being targeted with direct door-to-door canvassing, and phone banking. Local community groups, churches, and businesses have been armed with flyers and information about PHLConnectED so that they can help reach families.
Philadelphia K-12 families who have questions about eligibility should call 211 and press option one.