Internet Access

Mobile Beacon Awards Digital Inclusion Grants

Mobile Beacon, an organization that connects nonprofits, schools and libraries to the internet, has chosen Chelsea District Library in Chelsea, MI and Bartram High School in Philadelphia, PA as the recipients of its Wi-Fly Lending Launch Kit grant for educators. These grants provide 25 laptops, 25 4G LTE mobile hotspots and free, mobile, unlimited 4G internet access for one year to each organization to reach students and families who presently have limited or no access to technology in their homes.

In Chelsea, the school district provides iPads to all its students, but nearly 40 percent do not have access to the internet at home. The library plans to use Mobile Beacon’s grant to enhance its hotspot lending program and grow its mobile lab, which provides computer classes for students of all ages, levels and skills.

“Lack of broadband access has been an ongoing issue in the Chelsea District Library service area, which puts our community at a digital disadvantage in regards to information access, communication and education,” said Melanie Bell, network administrator for Chelsea District Library, in a statement. “The Wi-Fly Lending Launch Kit will nearly triple our hot spot loaning capacity and allow us to target specific populations in need. It also enhances our mobile lab by allowing us to almost double our class size…. With this grant we have the opportunity to provide free, easy-to-take-home internet access and digital training that will help our community bridge the digital divide.”

Bartram High School is located in a high-poverty, high-crime area of Philadelphia, according to a news release. The students will be using Mobile Beacon’s Wi-Fly Lending Kit to develop a technology nerve center for their school, which will provide a safe and inviting space for students to complete their assignments. A roaming unit called the Listening School will also be created to allow as many students as possible to use the technology.

Across the country, 5 million families with students lack internet access at home, including many from low-income or underserved communities, according to a news release issued by Mobile Beacon. This divide is commonly referred to as “the homework gap.” Seven out of 10 teachers now assign homework that requires internet access to complete it, which causes many low-income students to struggle to keep up with their peers.

Awarded once a year, Mobile Beacon’s Wi-Fly Lending Launch Kit grant for educators provides the tools needed to help a school, library or education-focused nonprofit set up a digital inclusion program in its community. Results from the digital inclusion programs will be posted online at the conclusion of the one-year pilot period.

Mobile Beacon offers $10-per-month, 4G LTE internet service aimed at helping organizations that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford such access. Mobile Beacon was created in 2010 by a 501(c)3 nonprofit and the second largest Educational Broadband Service provider in the United States. To find out more, visit Mobile Beacon’s website.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].