8:27am

Fri October 26, 2012
Higher Ed

Internet plan for families in beleagured school district

A nationwide effort to help close the digital divide is coming to Rochester: Hélène Biandudi from WXXI news reports.

Many low-income families in the Rochester City School District, who don’t have high-speed Internet at home, could soon get it, at a discount. It’s part of a pilot program launched by national non-profit, Connect2Compete

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 100 million Americans don't subscribe to high-speed Internet.

Meanwhile, Zach Leverenz, CEO of Connect2Compete, said 76% of teachers assign Internet-based homework.

"When you have a class where 50% of the class doesn't have Internet at home you're kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place in how you can as a teacher facilitate best practice learning," Leverenz said. "You're either leaving half the class behind or holding back the other half in the way you can use the Internet," said Leverenz.

Time Warner Cable is partnering with the non-profit to offer Rochester families who qualify for free or reduced price lunch high speed Internet for $9.95 a month. Leverenz said while this is just the pilot phase, over time the goal is to work more with schools and create what he referred to as “communities of practice.”

"Facilitating sessions for parents in the schools in Rochester, for example. Working with the libraries to increase and accelerate the number of trainings they're giving in conjunction with the offer," said Leverenz. "And so that the offer will actually stay alive longer because we get this virtuous cycle in the way that all our partners are working together," Leverenz said.

Time Warner is offering the deal from November 2012 through January 2013.

Connect2Compete also provides students and families with discounted laptops and computers and free training to increase digital literacy.

According to Leverenz, funding comes from foundations and private donors.

New York is one of 20 states in the pilot phase of the effort that launched this fall.