PHILADELPHIA—The City today announced that PHLConnectED will continue to provide Philadelphia’s pre-K–12 families with free internet access for a third year and has chosen grantees to support digital skill-building for pre-K–12 caregivers. PHLConnectED—the City’s initiative to provide free and reliable internet access for pre-K–12 students through Comcast’s Internet Essentials or a T-Mobile hotspot—will now extend through July 2023. Additionally, the City issued new grants to ensure additional digital skill-building support to families, an essential component of PHLConnectED’s mission.

PHLConnectED launched with philanthropic support from Comcast, The Lenfest Foundation, Neubauer Family Foundation, Philadelphia School Partnership, William Penn Foundation, Fralic Family Fund, Hess Foundation, The School District of Philadelphia, select Philadelphia charter schools, and Independence Mission Schools.

In Philadelphia’s 2021 report on digital access, the City found that PHLConnectED and other discount internet access programs have had a positive impact. As of 2021, 91% of K–12 households have high-speed internet home subscriptions—up from 70% in 2019 as reported by the American Community Survey. Due to its success in alleviating the digital divide, extending and sustaining PHLConnectED is incredibly important to ensure families have consistent access.

“In February, the City released its first citywide Digital Equity Plan,” said Mayor Kenney. “A key priority of this Plan is sustaining crucial digital equity programs like PHLConnectED. To date, PHLConnectED has enabled more than 21,000 internet connections, facilitating educational opportunities and access to valuable information for students and their families. We encourage families and residents in need of internet access to dial 2-1-1 so we can help them overcome the digital divide.”

PHLConnectED’s latest grants launched at the end of 2021 and aim to address the digital skills divide that inhibits growth and prosperity for many Philadelphians.

  • The PHLConnectED Caregiver Digital Literacy Initiative Grant—with the support of the Digital Literacy Alliance—ensures a regular schedule of digital skills classes for any pre-K–12 caregiver or family member to improve their skills to better support the students in their household. Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, the ExCITe Center at Drexel University, Girls, Inc., People’s Emergency Center, and the Intergenerational Center at Temple University received funding to complete this work and will partner with schools in targeted neighborhoods to conduct outreach to pre-K–12 caregivers this spring.
  • The PHLConnectED School-Based Caregiver Digital Supports Grant provides funding to school-based programs that help caregivers in their school community better navigate school-based technology and systems, such as online parent portals, video conferencing tools, and student digital learning tools. The grantees of this work are Caring People Alliance, Esperanza Academy Charter School, Global Leadership Academy Charter School, Masjid Al-Wasatiyah Wal-Itidaal in partnership with Independence Charter School West, and the Intergenerational Center at Temple University in partnership with Potter-Thomas School.

“Schools and community-based organizations are integral to PHLConnectED’s work in Philadelphia,” said Ashley Pollard, K–12 Digital Access Program Manager for the Office of Innovation and Technology. “As trusted messengers and accessible resources for caregivers, we know that schools and community groups can help provide digital literacy tools that residents need to support their students, communicate with schools, and actively engage in their children’s education.”

For more information about PHLConnectED, visit Families can continue to sign up for PHLConnectED by dialing 2-1-1. For language services, press 8. As the program’s Coordinating Agent, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey manages the 211 hotline as well as community-based outreach and the Digital Navigator program. Information regarding Digital Literacy courses will be available in early spring.