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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

As Virtual Learning Resumes In Pandemic, Groups Plead For Internet For All

A group of activists and parents are calling on the FCC to make internet access free for students nationwide.

Nailah Stevenson, left, addresses fellow activists at the #InternetForAll Day of Action Wednesday as Tanesha Peeples, right, looks on.
Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
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UPDATED: Outstanding debt is not a barrier to eligibility for Chicago Connected, a CPS program that provides internet service to eligible low-income students and their families. Comcast officials say families eligible for its Internet Essentials program, which is available through Chicago Connected, will not be turned away even if they have outstanding balances.

ENGLEWOOD — Concerned parents and activists gathered in front of an Englewood Comcast branch Wednesday afternoon demanding that the federal government ensure internet access for all children as classrooms nationwide prepare to go virtual.

Activists in several cities, including Chicago, Washington D.C., and Oakland participated in #InternetForAll’s national call for action, calling on the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Education to address the estimated 15 million students “logged out” across the country.

Chicago Public Schools has rolled out the Chicago Connected program to bridge the digital divide for low-income Chicago Public School students. Internet Essentials, Comcast’s internet service for eligible low-income households, RCN and other services are available through Chicago Connected to program participants.

“We’re focusing on the federal level because the FCC has control over all of the services. We want to cut out the middle man and get to the boss,” said Tanesha Peeples, herself a CPS alum.

The group has been collaborating with organizations like Kids First Chicago to distribute laptops and tablets to CPS students who won’t be able to receive one of the 36,000 devices the district plans to distribute ahead of the start of the school year. CPS distributed 128,000 devices when the district switched to remote learning in the spring.

Peeples hasn’t yet reached out to the Chicago Teachers Union, but does believe this is an initiative everyone can get behind.

“If we’re paying taxes for per-pupil funding, everyone — teachers included — should have access to free internet,” said Peeples.

The group plans to continue to apply pressure; a week-long call to action is in the works for October, along with a letter writing campaign. A petition calling on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to take action will be circulating soon, added Peeples.

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