The Chicago Connected Program Provides 100K Students with Internet at Home

Mayor Lori Lightfoot of the city of Chicago, IL recently announced a new program – The Chicago Connected program – that will provide more than 100,000 K-12 students with the internet at home. The $50 million, four-year program is aimed towards helping the most at-risk students in the Chicago public school system (CPS). It will also be increasing the number of mobile hot-spot devices for students in temporary living situations.

Studies have shown that an estimated 100,000 students lack access to high-speed internet in Chicago. Eligible families will be connected to the internet prior to the 2020-2021 school year by Comcast and the cable company RCN Corporation.

“We have to do everything that we can to close the digital divide and I am grateful and happy that we are starting with our CPS students,” Lightfoot said during a press conference. “We as a city can simply not afford to wait any longer to provide our residents the basics they need to be successful, to be part of a city and the opportunities that this amazing city provides to all.”

The program will primarily be funded by philanthropy from individual donors and community organizations. Michelle and Barack Obama, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Chicago Community Trust also donated $750,000. The first two years of the program will also be supported by $5 million in funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act via the City of Chicago. The third and fourth years will be funded by CPS.

“Increased internet access will provide a plethora of telehealth, economic and other ancillary benefits,” Daniel Anello, CEO of Kids First Chicago, said in a statement, “in addition to closing the digital divide which contributes to a significant racial equity gap in our city.”