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ConnectED NY fund to provide no-cost internet access for 50,000 students in economically disadvantaged school districts


Fri, Mar 19th 2021 05:25 pm

Program supported by Schmidt Futures, Ford Foundation in partnership with New York state

Students without at-home connectivity in 210 school districts will be eligible for no-cost internet through June 2022

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Reimagine New York Commission announced the launch of ConnectED NY, an emergency fund to provide approximately 50,000 students in economically disadvantaged school districts with free internet access through June 2022. Funding will be provided by Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation and the program will be managed by Digital Promise, a nonprofit that is dedicated to closing the digital learning gap.

"Internet access is an essential utility in the 21st century – a new reality that has only been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic – and we have a responsibility to ensure our students have the access they need to continue learning during this public health crisis," Cuomo said. "We cannot build back better if we do not foster proper development and a promising future for our children, and this program will help students whose families have limited means to get connected so they can get the education they deserve. Last year, I asked the ‘Reimagine’ commission to make sure this pandemic wasn't just something we survived, but spurred real, creative solutions to intractable problems – and I want to thank Schmidt Futures, the Ford Foundation, and everyone on the commission for stepping up to support our students."

Eric Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Futures and chair of the “Reimagine New York” commission, said, "To reimagine education and create real opportunity, every student needs access to the internet. The ConnectED NY fund will provide hotspots and data plans for students that need them most. This is a step forward in rebuilding a New York that works for all students, and we're proud to be a part of it."

Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, co-chair of the “Reimagine New York” commission's connectivity working group, said, "We believe access to the internet is a fundamental human right. The Ford Foundation is proud to support ConnectED NY to help rebuild a better New York, where everyone, especially our most vulnerable children, can connect to the internet to learn and reach their fullest potential."

The ConnectED NY fund will help close the connectivity gap by providing free mobile hotspots and monthly data plans to approximately 50,000 students in economically disadvantaged school districts from May 2021 through June 2022. In unique circumstances where students cannot access reliable internet service through a mobile hotspot, fixed internet options will be made available.

The program will serve students in the most economically disadvantaged school districts, defined as school districts where the percent of students that are economically disadvantaged exceeds the state average.

School districts will work with Digital Promise, AT&T and other internet service providers as needed to identify eligible students who either do not have at-home internet access or do not have access to sufficient broadband speeds to participate in remote learning. Hotspots and data plans will be purchased directly by the ConnectED NY fund from AT&T, so there is no financial obligation for students and their families. In circumstances where fixed internet is required, the program will work with districts and fixed internet service providers to ensure there is no cost to students and their families.

The “Reimagine New York” commission, which was created by Cuomo in May to leverage technology to build back a better New York, recommended the ConnectED NY fund as a step to help bridge this gap and promote equity. ConnectED NY builds on the state's commitment to ensure all New Yorkers have access to affordable, high-quality internet, including its first-in-the nation $15-per-month broadband affordability legislative proposal.

ConnectED NY is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

An informational webinar will take place on Monday, March 22, from 2-3 p.m. School districts can find more information about applying at https://connectedny.digitalpromise.org/ or by contacting Digital Promise at [email protected].

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