Pitt Collaborates to Provide Free Wi-Fi to In-Need Communities | Information Technology | University of Pittsburgh

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Pitt Collaborates to Provide Free Wi-Fi to In-Need Communities

Monday, November 9, 2020 - 17:08

In a historic collaborative effort, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Research (KINBER) have partnered to provide free, high-speed internet access primarily to school-age children as the COVID-19 pandemic forces the integration of remote instruction.

“To live and work in today’s digital society, it is essential to have access to the Internet. Reliable Internet access is no longer a luxury—it is a necessity and a right. Unfortunately, many people in our own City of Pittsburgh cannot afford the Internet services they need. Every1online is one way to begin to see Internet access as a human right,” said Adam Longwill, executive director of Meta Mesh Wireless Communities.

Designed to create more equitable access to the internet, Every1online will provide Wi-Fi at no cost to eligible households during a 12-month pilot program in the Coraopolis, Homewood, and New Kensington areas—with the goal of expanding the program to additional communities in Western Pennsylvania beyond the first year. As the first nonprofit wireless internet model in the country, the project seeks to shrink the digital divide by prioritizing Pittsburghers in-need.

“This kind of inter-organizational collaboration … is essential for developing meaningful, impactful solutions. We are so thrilled to be a part of this collaborative and to have this chance to make real change in our city” said Maggie Hannan, associate director of CMU's Simon Initiative.

Pitt’s Vice-Chancellor and CIO Mark Henderson added “This partnership will no doubt have a meaningful impact on bridging the digital divide in communities that are literally within view of the iconic Cathedral of Learning. We’re grateful for the opportunity to contribute to improving educational outcomes in these school districts, and the resulting long-term benefits for the region.”

The Every1online plan is to build a Community Wireless Network that provides high-speed broadband internet, which is optimal for simultaneous video conferences. While the pilot program seeks to prioritize households with students, any household within the service area can sign-up to receive in-home equipment and connect to the network. Visit metamesh.org for more details and registration, which is available through  Jan. 31, 2021.

The New Kensington-Arnold and Cornell (Coraopolis) school districts, as well as the Homewood Children's Village, are collaborators. Penn State New Kensington also contributes to the project’s progress in the New Kensington area. These local community partners bring vital expertise, leading the effort to build community buy-in, leveraging social capital to facilitate the creation of WISP infrastructure, and identifying households in need of Internet connectivity. They also advise CMU, Pitt, and Meta Mesh partners on community needs and intentional partnership practices.

“So many of our students live in poverty, or other circumstances that prevent them from having access to high-speed internet, which is what they need to learn remotely. This collaboration is really making the statement that these kids deserve equitable internet access,” said Kris Hupp, the Cornell School District’s director of technology and instructional innovation.

Every1online is also made possible with generous support from the Hopper Dean Foundation, the RK Mellon Foundation, the Bernita Buncher Educational Advancement Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Burrell-New Kensington Rotary Club.