HCS EdConnect families will have more than enough broadband capacity and data to participate in video-based learning and other high bandwidth educational applications.
The city of Chattanooga is using a city-wide network to bridge the digital divide in education by providing free internet for economically disadvantaged students as the Covid-19 crises continues.
Hamilton County Schools (HCS) is joining with electric power distribution and telecommunications company EPB of Chattanooga and other community partners for the HCS EdConnect online learning initiative that uses smart city infrastructure.
Made possible by support from local private and public partners and by having a community-wide fibre optic network in place, EPB will provide internet services to some 28,500 economically challenged students in Hamilton County Schools.
According to the partners, the formation of this programme is the first time a US community is ‘definitively’ bridging the digital divide for education by providing a high-quality broadband solution to all students in need.
Families in the EPB service area with students who participate in HCS EdConnect powered by EPB will receive a router and at least 100 Mbps internet service at no charge to them.
This internet service is at least four times faster than typical educational access offerings from other providers, and it is the only one that delivers symmetrical speeds (same speed for uploads and downloads) with no data caps. As a result, HCS EdConnect families will have more than enough broadband capacity and data to participate in video-based learning and other high bandwidth educational applications.
“We’re meeting the challenges of the Covid crisis head-on by creating this innovative new programme to ensure that our students have the connectivity they need to excel”
The programme is structured such that qualified students will maintain their internet services at no charge for at least 10 years if the partnership reaches its full fund-raising goal.
“Ensuring the continued educational progress of our students is our top priority,” said Jim Coppinger, mayor of Hamilton County.
“We’re meeting the challenges of the Covid crisis head-on by creating this innovative new programme to ensure that our students have the connectivity they need to excel in the short-term and for the foreseeable future.”
HCS EdConnect is made possible because the greater Chattanooga area is served by a 100 per cent fibre-to-the-home network that passes every home and business.
“Online learning is an integral part of education in the 21st century, especially in a world made remote due to Covid-19”
Community partnerships have allowed Hamilton County Schools to rapidly raise $6m toward the upfront infrastructure investment of $8.2m necessary for the additional infrastructure and equipment needed at the outset of the project.
So far, the funding partners for HCS EdConnect include Hamilton County, the City of Chattanooga, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, and the Smart City Venture Fund, which includes Benwood Foundation, Community Foundation, Footprint Foundation, and Robert L And Katherina Maclellan Foundation.
If the full-fundraising goal is reached, Hamilton County Schools and EPB will be able to fund the ongoing cost of the service out of their existing operating budgets for 10 years.
The Enterprise Centre will also play a significant role in facilitating communications and delivering technical support for HCS EdConnect.
“Online learning is an integral part of education in the 21st century, especially in a world made remote due to Covid-19,” said Deb Socia, president of The Enterprise Centre.
“Now, just as any student who depends on transportation is able to ride the bus, every student will be able to fully participate in the incredible opportunities afforded by Hamilton County Schools.”
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