Hamilton Herald Masthead Hamilton Herald

Editorial


Front Page - Friday, August 7, 2020

Hamilton County Schools and EPB bridging digital divide for students




Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke speaks during the news conference announcing HCS EdConnect, a partnership between Hamilton County Schools and EPB that will provide internet services to economically challenged students at no charge. Berke said the program will improve the lives of thousands of families. - Photograph provided

Hamilton County Schools is joining with EPB of Chattanooga and other community partners to ensure all students can access the internet for online learning as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

HCS EdConnect will provide internet services to about 28,500 economically challenged Hamilton County Schools students in the greater Chattanooga area at no charge to the family.

Families in the EPB service area with students who participate in HCS EdConnect will receive a router and at least 100 Mbps internet service with no data caps. This will provide enough broadband capacity to participate in video-based learning and other high bandwidth educational applications.

Qualified students will maintain their internet services at no charge for at least 10 years if the partnership reaches its full fundraising goal.

The Chattanooga area is served by a fully fiber-to-the-home network that passes every home and business. EPB, the city’s municipally-owned energy and connectivity provider, built the fiber optic network in 2010.

Community partnerships have allowed Hamilton County Schools to raise $6 million toward the $8.2 million necessary for the additional infrastructure and equipment needed at the outset of the project.

Funding partners for HCS EdConnect include Hamilton County, the city of Chattanooga, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation and the Smart City Venture Fund, which includes the Benwood Foundation, the Community Foundation, the Footprint Foundation and the Robert L. and Katherina Maclellan Foundation.

Eligibility to participate is determined by the benchmarks for economic disadvantage set by the state of Tennessee.

The Enterprise Center will help to deliver technical support for HCS EdConnect.

Hamilton County Schools has begun outreach to eligible students in the district. Plans are in place for EPB to begin installations immediately.

The offering will be rolled out as quickly as possible over the next several months until all students have access.

Hamilton County Schools will contact parents by phone, text and email. Once the family receives information about the program, parents will have the opportunity to opt-in, and then EPB will contact them to set up the service.

Source: Hamilton County Schools