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July 30, 2020

Hartford launches $3.8M program to provide free, citywide Wi-Fi

HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper Hartford City Hall at 550 Main St.

The city of Hartford says it's teaming with hedge fund giant Ray Dalio’s philanthropic group Dalio Education and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to build and provide a free, citywide Wi-Fi network for residents at a cost of roughly $3.8 million.

Mayor Luke Bronin on Wednesday announced the free internet connectivity will be rolled out in two pilot phases in the Northeast and Frog Hollow neighborhoods. The first phase is expected to be completed by year-end, and subsequent phases will extend to the North, South and West End neighborhoods of the Capital City.

Hartford says it’s investing $2.3 million for the project, in addition to about $100,000 annually for the LTE-speed internet connection with its existing wireless providers. Dalio Education and the Hartford Foundation have pledged $1.5 million for the project, which is geared to bridge the digital divide and achieve educational equity and expand economic opportunity in the city.

"Internet connectivity is not a luxury, it's an essential part of learning, earning, and living today, and we believe that every Hartford resident and every Hartford business deserves a good quality internet connection," Bronin said in a statement Wednesday. "We're going to make that happen through this public-private partnership... ."

As certain businesses and schools are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams said the definition of basic human needs must be expanded to include gaining access to telehealth services and virtual learning opportunities.

“This is particularly true in Hartford where many neighborhoods have no access to high-speed internet connectivity," Williams said.

Gov. Ned Lamont earlier this week announced that districts will have the option to reopen with a mix of online and in-school classes instead of bringing all students back this fall. But some teachers and parents in Hartford are still urging the state to halt in-person instruction.

Statewide, the Dalio Education says it's working with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities to ensure that students across the state have access to computers and internet connectivity.

A state survey of districts in mid-May shows that about one out of every 11 students were in need of a computer or other device, and nearly 29,000 students didn’t have adequate internet access. Moreover, up to 40% of students in Connecticut may lack sufficient connectivity to fully engage in online schooling.

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September 14, 2020

A excellent project that should be a great help to the thousands of people who cannot get access to the internet today!

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