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Fact Sheet on Connectivity, Bridging the Digital Divide

06/8/20

Fact Sheet on Connectivity, Bridging the Digital Divide

NASHVILLE, Tenn., June 8, 2020 – Mayor John Cooper is directing $24 million in funding from the federal CARES Act to provide every public school student in Nashville-Davidson County with a laptop and, for students who need it, internet connectivity.

This investment is sufficient for Dell Computers to provide Metro Nashville with up to 90,000 laptops for the projected 84,740 students who will be enrolled in traditional and charter schools in the upcoming school year. The cost of each computer will be just above $200 per device, a significant reduction from their list price.

Laptops are only useful to the extent that students using them can connect to the internet. Earlier this summer, MNPS surveyed families to determine how many families had access to the internet. Fifteen percent of families who responded to the survey reported that they did not have internet access. Adjusting for no respondents, MNPS has estimated that 20 percent of their families lack internet access. To meet the needs of these families, the $24 million is also sufficient to pay for up to 17,000 mobile internet hotspots. MNPS is entering into an agreement that will provide MNPS students with mobile internet hotspots. Metro is still negotiating with vendors, but the cost of the internet hotspot service would be no more than $20/month, a significant reduction from their list price. Hotspot devices will be distributed to students along with their laptops.

The cost of this investment in Nashville’s future will be up to $24 million (still negotiating with vendors). Funding will come from the $121 million allocated to Nashville through the federal CARES Act.

“I am thankful that Mayor Cooper and MNPS are working together to begin to address the digital divide in Nashville by providing devices and hotspots for all MNPS students,” said Councilwoman Delishia D. Porterfield (District 29). “Students have a right to a quality education regardless of their socio-economic status.  Neither your zip code nor your family’s income should determine the quality of education you receive but for so many of our students, this is a harsh reality.”

“I want to thank Mayor Cooper for this exciting investment in Nashville’s children and in Nashville’s future,” said Amy Frogge, MNPS Board Member. “Ensuring that our students have access to computers and to the internet is a huge step towards a more equitable city, where all our children have the tools they need to succeed.

“The coronavirus has highlighted a vast digital divide in our community,” said Mayor Cooper. “Those who do not have the means to continue their education, engage with their teachers and peers, and benefit from free programs offered by Metro and our partners are placed at a clear, and early, disadvantage. We are making an historic investment in our public school students and empowering our educators to help bridge the digital divide that most often affects MNPS families in Nashville’s historically underserved neighborhoods.”

“As our Board of Education knows, the digital divide is one of the biggest challenges facing our schools and because of the leadership of Mayor John Cooper, we are taking a huge step forward for equity,” said Dr. Adrienne Battle, Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools. “This investment and these devices will make a big impact on our students’ lives, and we can’t thank Mayor Cooper enough for making that possible.”

Q & A:

Will students who already have laptops be receiving district laptops?

Yes. Every student in a Nashville public school will have access to an MNPS laptop. Standardizing devices will allow MNPS to deliver a uniform, secure working experience.

 

What about charter schools that have already provided their students with laptops?

This investment is sufficient to cover needs for all public school students, across both traditional and charter schools. We are not excluding charter schools from this investment, but we recognize that some charter schools may have already addressed their needs for laptops and connectivity.

 

How will the hotspot devices work? Will other people in the house be able to use them? Also, what safeguards will be put in place to make sure they are used appropriately?

Providing hotspot devices to the approximately 17,000 MNPS families who don’t currently have access to the internet will help more than just the students. It will also allow for other family members to use the internet to look for jobs or receive health care information. What we are doing today is taking a major first step towards closing the digital divide.

So yes, other family members will be able to use the hotspot devices. These devices will be CIPA (pronounced sip-a) compliant. Children will not be able to access inappropriate content. Adults using the hotspot on a non-school device will have an option to request less restrictive access.

 

Will you be able to get all of these devices by the start of the school year?

MNPS is confident that they will be able to secure computers in time for the school year. Dell, in addition to being a giant in this field, is also a valued local corporate citizen. We appreciate their help in coming together to support us with this.

 

Is there a broader plan to bridge the digital divide?

We are very aware of the growing need for all residents to have access to the internet. This is the most significant first step toward meeting that need that any city could take. We will certainly look for the opportunity to take further steps in the future as well.