Partnership bridges digital divide to connect Valley kids to school

Sep 1, 2021, 4:35 AM | Updated: 9:35 am
(Phoenix Digital Education Connection Canopy photo)...
(Phoenix Digital Education Connection Canopy photo)
(Phoenix Digital Education Connection Canopy photo)

PHOENIX –The city of Phoenix is partnering with multiple organizations to use federal CARES Act dollars to boost broadband for education and bridge the digital divide.

Families and their school-aged children forced to learn remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic were left to their own devices, or dependent on cities and schools.

“They were deploying hotspots and putting buses with WiFi out in communities,” Christine Mackay, director of Community and Economic Development with the city of Phoenix, said.

“They weren’t long-term solutions.”

Mackay, working with the Phoenix Digital Education Connection Canopy, has spent $17 million so far to put free wireless hotspots in homes, with the money being pooled from federal, state and local dollars.

Paul Ross, associate vice president and CIO with Phoenix College, distributed the hotspots for families.

He also led the construction of radio poles that connected to the school but not the rest of the internet, with the schools that have a radio array connecting with the students on a different network.

“It makes it so the kids can’t go out and watch Netflix and surf over the web,” Mackay said. “The sole place they could go back to is their school.”

The radio poles leave minimal impact and footprint, Ross said.

“We’re using infrastructure that can grow with the program,” he said. “We can update the technology all the time. We can put different technologies on the system.”

The partnership is securing extra cash, land and materials to put up more poles and connect 250,000 Valley families.

Those who wish to donate to the cause can contact Mackay by email or at 602-534-9049.

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Partnership bridges digital divide to connect Valley kids to school