3 local school districts eligible for state’s new no-cost internet for students without access

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 March 2021 at 4:33 pm

Albion, Medina and Holley on list, with priority given to most economically disadvantaged districts

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today the state will soon be launching “ConnectED NY” which will provide free internet access to 50,000 students.

The state is making the program eligible to students in 210 of the most economically disadvantaged districts in the state. That includes Albion (95th most economically disadvantaged with 63.0 percent of its students considered economically disadvantaged), Medina (131st with 59.8 percent economically disadvantaged) and Holley (141st with 59.5 percent economically disadvantaged.)

The state will give priority to students by districts in descending order, with the most economically disadvantaged given the highest priority.

The program is being funded by Schmidt Futures and the Ford Foundation and the program will be managed by Digital Promise, a non-profit which is dedicated to closing the digital learning gap. It will fund the internet access through June 2022.

“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,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a news release. “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.”

School districts will work with Digital Promise, AT&T, and other internet service providers 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.

An informational webinar will take place on Monday, March 22, from 2 to 3 p.m. School districts can find more information about applying by clicking here or by contacting Digital Promise at connectedny@digitalpromise.org.

The New York State Education Department’s Fall 2020 survey of educational institutions suggests that as many as 166,000 students remain without internet access at home. With $10 million in initial funds, ConnectED NY will provide data-enabled hotspots to approximately 50,000 students.

Eric Schmidt, Co-Founder of Schmidt Futures and chairman 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.”

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and co-chairman 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.”