With Philadelphia public schools online through at least November 17, assuring internet access for all was essential. The City and School District of Philadelphia launched PHLConnectED, part of a $17 million digital equity plan, to provide free access to 35,000 student households. The initiative partnered with 211 SEPA powered by the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) as the front door for the program. 2-1-1 is providing information, screening callers for eligibility, and, in the coming weeks, connecting those eligible to internet services, as well as other community resources such as food pantries and rent assistance. We examined requests for internet assistance received by 2-1-1 in Philadelphia throughout 2020. The impact of PHLConnectED was clear. From Jan. 1st through August 25, requests for internet assistance were rare – only 72 total. As the chart shows, that number was quickly dwarfed by over 750 requests in the first 10 days after announcing 2-1-1 as an entry point to the program. “Equity and ease go hand-in-hand,” says Kate Houstoun, Managing Director of Capacity Building for UWGPSNJ. “Providing a front door for PHLConnectED was just our first step in making access to internet, hardware, and skills easier for families during this difficult time.” Houstoun’s team has partnered with the City, School District, Comcast, and community-based organizations in pushing to reach and support those who need this resource the most, ensuring all students have what they need to learn at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Each bar in the chart shows total requests for internet assistance received on that day. Mouse over each bar to see the daily totals.
Contributors: Rachel Garg, Balaji Golla, Matthew Kreuter