San Jose announces public-private partnership to connect students to the internet

As part of a larger effort to bridge the digital divide, Mayor Sam 
Liccardo announced Monday that the city of San Jose will provide 11,000 hotspots with unlimited 4G LTE data plans to unconnected students and residents through a new partnership with AT&T.

The public-private partnership will get 8,000 students connected 
as early as Friday.

"It's not just the children who benefit, of course. Up to 15 
devices can be used in any of these homes with the benefit of this hotspot and so this opens up the world of possibilities certainly to the child who needs to be learning online, but also to the parent who needs to be looking for a job or perhaps for health care information online and all the other ways we critically depend on broadband as connection," Liccardo said.

The Santa Clara County Office of Education will receive 8,000 AT&T Unite Express 2 Hotspots with free high-speed internet and unlimited 4G LTE data plans for a year, and will work with school districts to identify families who need access to the internet for the upcoming academic year.

The San Jose Public Library will also receive 3,000 hotspot 
devices for residents to check out for a 90-day period, which can be extended once for an additional 30 days.

Hotspot device lending was a key aspect of the COVID-19 Digital 
Inclusion Expenditure Plan that was unanimously approved by the San Jose City Council on June 23 to address the lack of digital access for many of the city's residents and students.

The plan targets geographic areas that are most densely populated with K-12 students, low-income households and households that lack digital access. 

"As of all of our work in supporting education, our values of 
equity, diversity and inclusion were at the forefront of our decision-making efforts," City Librarian Jill Bourne said.

In terms of the funding for the hotspot devices, AT&T invested a 
few million dollars, as well as the city of San Jose, which allocated $8.2 million, according to Liccardo. 

The city will also be working to enhance outdoor Wi-Fi in branch 
libraries, community centers and parks. It has also created a multi-lingual city initiative, SJ Access, which provides residents and students access to internet, free Wi-Fi and digital literacy programs.

"The need is still great. We still have a significant need for 
devices. We are aware that there are families that are not connected that we do not know about yet and so this investment of 8,000 devices will make a significant dent in the access for the most vulnerable children and families in San Jose," County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan said. 

Countywide, there is still a need for 15,000 more hotspot devices 
and more than 50,000 computing devices, according to Dewan.

"For families who have a need, if they have not communicated 
directly with their school site principal or their school district, that 
would be the first place to go," Dewan said.