Program continues to connect families in need and provide additional tools to overcome the digital divide
PHILADELPHIA — The City of Philadelphia today announced that it has enabled 22,500 internet connections in the last two years since launching PHLConnectED in the summer of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. PHLConnectED is the City’s initiative to provide free internet access to pre-K–12 students in need. Earlier this year, the City shared that PHLConnectED—originally a two-year program—has been extended to operate for another year.
“As Philadelphia gets ready to go back to school this month, we need to make sure students have internet access in order to make the most of their education,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “The connections enabled by PHLConnectED have helped thousands of students take part in virtual learning, access online resources, and connect with their peers and teachers. By connecting our students’ households, we are investing in Philadelphia’s present and future.”
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 percent of K-12 households have home high speed internet connections—up from 70 percent in 2019 as reported by the American Community Survey.
Beyond funding connectivity for enrolled families, PHLConnectED has also supported broad digital equity initiatives over the past year, including:
- Digital skill-building classes and school-based initiatives for pre-K–12 caregivers created through grants for community-based organizations and schools;
- An outreach award-based grant to encourage Philadelphia schools to spread awareness about the program; and
- On-the-ground outreach with partnering community-based organizations and Digital Navigators.
Christina Holley, a Philadelphia mother of three, has been enrolled in PHLConnectED with Internet Essentials since the fall of 2020. The program has helped her stay engaged with her children’s school. “I’m a super active parent. I’m the President for the Parent Committee and I work from home,” explained Holley. “I’m constantly online, doing things for the kids’ school while they are doing homework. We can multitask online and not worry about something as essential as an internet connection.”
Thanks to partners like Comcast, the Lenfest Foundation, Neubauer Family Foundation, Elevate 215, William Penn Foundation, Fralic Family Fund, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, Hess Foundation, the School District of Philadelphia, select Philadelphia charter schools, and Independence Mission Schools, PHLConnectED will continue to provide all eligible students in grades pre-K–12 with internet access through Comcast Internet Essentials or a T-Mobile MiFi Hotspot.
PHLConnectED is one initiative of the City’s Digital Equity Plan, which aims to help Philadelphia reach a baseline of digital equity over the next five years. The three key pillars of digital equity are internet access, devices, and digital literacy.
PHLConnectED connects eligible pre-K–12 student households in Philadelphia with access to free, reliable internet service through summer 2023. Participants do not pay any out-of-pocket expenses or installation fees. The program will also provide digital skills training and support. 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.
To learn more about the program, visit phila.gov/phlconnected.