KC bridging digital divide, bringing Internet to students

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Help could be coming to thousands of local students suffering from what’s called “the digital divide.” One in four families don’t have access to the Internet, and for students who need electronic devices to do their homework, that’s a big issue.

Right now Kansas City Public Schools and many other districts give students laptops or tablets to use in school and take home with them. But with no way to do their homework, students are left searching for Wi-Fi at libraries, restaurants and friend's houses.

“We’ve seen some instances where students will go sit outside of the school before the school opens up to get access to the school’s Wi-Fi network, so it’s definitely a big challenge,” Jim Spillane, Sprint's Project ConnectED Coordinator said.

“I don’t understand how they give us laptops but then we don’t have Wi-Fi other than the school,” Ericka Osborne, A junior at AC Prep, said.

This week leaders of tech companies met with local officials to work on a solution to the digital divide.

“If a kid doesn’t have access to the Internet, what are they supposed to do, if they are sitting there with this laptop in school that is useless when they go home?” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said.

Sprint is giving out 50,000 free Internet lines to students nationwide. Google Fiber is expected to launch a program next week giving free Wi-Fi to parents living in Kansas City’s housing projects.

Kansas City is one of 28 communities nationwide taking part in the White House’s Connect Home pilot program.