Among the glaring issues the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront since last spring is the disparity in internet connectivity in Dallas County – something that impacts students faced with learning virtually throughout the area.
But one county-wide effort is aiming to change that.
The Internet For All coalition is made up of more than 40 community leaders including Chief Technology Officers from nine Dallas County school districts, The Dallas Regional Chamber, City of Dallas, the Dallas Innovation Alliance and the Federal Reserve Bank. The coalition has been meeting since May to pursue short-term, medium-term and long-term strategies to ensure all students have a reliable internet connection.
The “Get Connected” campaign, sponsored by state Sen. Royce West, will encourage students and families to call a hotline to share their internet connectivity needs so that school districts can resolve those issues and get students connected to a reliable internet solution.
Families simply need to call the Internet for All hotline at 972-925-6000 or text ‘Connect’ to 972-925-6000 and a representative from their school district will contact them within seven days to arrange the best internet access solution available.
“Our estimates show at least 75,000 families across Dallas County lack reliable, broadband internet access right now. And that makes virtual learning difficult if not impossible,” explained Dottie Smith, president of Dallas nonprofit The Commit Partnership, and co-chair of the Internet for All coalition. “Our hope with the ‘Get Connected’ campaign is to reach every single one of those households and provide a reliable internet solution as quickly as possible.”.
Local radio and television stations, including KRNB 105.7, K104, 97.9 The Beat, and Majic 94.5 will be promoting the campaign from Sept. 2 to Sept. 6 and interviewing local leaders to talk about the digital divide and resources available for Dallas County residents.
The most common internet solution to be deployed is the distribution of mobile hotspots, but the coalition is also pursuing ways to connect entire households so that everyone can benefit from internet connectivity.
Even if families are planning to opt into face-to-face instruction, everyone is encouraged to get connected in case schools have to go back to virtual learning only. That way, students and families can access additional learning experiences and resources, like job searches and telehealth, during this pandemic.
To learn more about the Internet for All Coalition and how to get connected, go to www.internetfordallas.org. Note: site will be fully live on Sept. 1.