WiFi made available to students across Colorado

(Drake Lawson)
Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 7:35 AM MDT
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DENVER (KKTV) - Online learning has become a must in this pandemic year. But this new reliance on distance learning means some Coloradans without a reliable internet connection are at risk of being left behind.

State leaders are working to fix that problem.

“Colorado is also doing our part that every child has access to the internet,” Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday in a joint news conference with Attorney General Phil Weiser, Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes, and state Sen. Jeff Bridges.

That includes pairing up with big companies such as T-Mobile to provide WiFi hotspots for students who might not have had access otherwise.

Without a stable internet connection, online classes simply do not work.

The governor estimates they will be able to provide 34,000 low-income households with free WiFi hotspots and data for a year.

“The reality is, a lot of people don’t have broadband. A lot of students did not have broadband an as our governor said often it’s the poorest, often it’s on racial lines, which means educational disparities can be made even worse during this time,” Weiser said.

There’s also significant funding coming from the Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund, $2 million spread out to education districts to use as they see fit adjusting to the new education model.

“The districts can use these funds to purchase hotspots for low-income families in areas with service but also to identify other creative opportunities. We know in some of our rural communities hotspots don’t always work perfectly,” Anthes said. “We’ve just heard from many parents and guardians and grandparents and families who are really having a tough time supporting their students through this time and broadband access is now an essential supply.”

Each district needs to apply to receive some of that money, and the state will distribute it based on need.

Even with the monetary assistance and businesses like T-Mobile stepping up, state research shows there are still thousands more in need of better internet connections across Colorado. State research shows about 65,000 kids across the state are facing that situation.

“It’s not enough,” Polis acknowledged. “But it is a good start, and I would add that even in rural areas the least expensive option of hotspots will still be very effective.”

Weiser said the state is continuing to seek ways to reach every student in the state.

“We’re doing even more to address this online learning gap. We filed a petition today with the Federal Communications Commission. The commission has this e-rate program to support access to broadband in schools.”

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