New York’s digital divide to be discussed in NYSED webinars

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A stack of receipts beside a laptop. (Pexels / Pixabay)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- A series of webinars discussing how to gain equal internet access across New York are scheduled for September and October. The webinars are a collaboration between the New York Education Department (NYSED), New York State Library, METRO Library Council, and the Northern New York Library Network.

New York is ranked the number two state for internet connectivity in the country. Approximately 97% of New Yorkers have access to wired internet but only 70% of the state has access that costs $60 or less a month, according to Broadband.now.

“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the inequities that run throughout our education system. The ‘digital divide’ is real, and it is devastating. Students simply cannot participate in remote learning if they don’t have access to a computer and to the internet, which is why these discussions are critically important right now,” says NYSED Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa.

Affordability versus access is part of the discussions surrounding the digital divide between those who do and do not have access to broadband. With internet access instrumental in remote education, there is more interest in ways to improve internet availability in the state, says Editor-in-Chief of Broadband.now, Tyler Cooper.

Lack of consistent internet access was also discussed in NYSED Reopening Task Force meetings held over the summer. Educators said internet connectivity was not only a problem for some of their students but for them too.

“Our school systems adapted rapidly to provide for continuity of learning and have been preparing all summer to safely educate students this fall,” says NYSED Vice-Chancellor T. Andrew Brown. “Now we will build on those efforts and providing this webinar series so the education community can collectively work toward eliminating gaps in the availability of devices and the internet for all students in New York.”

“We continue to build out our network across Upstate New York, as part of our agreement with the NYS Public Service Commission—to deliver 145,000 new locations for service by September of next year. Our June 30th report out showed us almost 10,000 new locations ahead of schedule, with over 109000 new locations available for service across upstate,” says Charter’s Northeast Region Senior Director of Communications, Lara Pritchard.

“In response to the COVID pandemic, we delivered two months of free broadband to nearly 448,000 American households with students and teachers, kept about 700,000 residential and small business customers connected when they had a hard time paying bills because of COVID-related economic hardship and forgave $85 million in overdue customer balances,” Pritchard says.

More information on the New York State Library Digital Equity Webinar Series can be found on their website. The series begins September 10. Registration is required to attend. More webinars may be scheduled later in November and December.

Upcoming webinars

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