Slow internet stresses distance learning, how San Jose is helping

It's a big task that's gotten more urgent during the pandemic: bridging the "digital divide."

In San Jose, they're taking that goal very seriously. And while they were busy signing people up for affordable internet on Thursday and have been handing out free hotspots nearly every day, they recognize this issue isn't going to be resolved soon.

Distance learning is driving some students to tears.

That's especially true in Araceli Ortiz's home in East San Jose.

"The connection for internet is really bad in this area. So it's really hard," says Ortiz.

The city of San Jose is trying to help bring internet to those who can't afford it.

A plan, in the works for several years, got expedited thanks to the pandemic.

The first component is a partnership with AT&T to hand out thousands of hotspots.

"What happened was the first couple weeks, schools found out they had a much greater need than they thought. And so we were able to place a second order and issue another 4,800 hot spots," says Jill Bourne, Dir of San Jose Public Libraries.

By the end of last week 15,000 had been distributed. Some of them through the Alum Rock School District.

But help from the city and AT&T is in addition to computers they got through a partnership with Verizon.

"We are partnering with whoever is willing to come and help us because it is an ongoing need in our community," says superintendent Hilaria Bauer.

City officials see that too.

They are working on a community wireless project in partnership with the East Side Union High School District, which targets the neighborhoods around various schools.

They are allowing hotspots to be checked out at local libraries. And they are helping people sign up for low-cost internet through Comcast and AT&T. But they know the efforts can't stop there.

"How do we support our families in year two. What are those solutions going to look like?" says Bourne.

Alfonso Hernandez Zuniga came to the Mayfair Community Center to hear about his options. As a retiree on a fixed income, he's happy for the help.

"Now the community offer that internet at that price. I like it," he says.

San Jose also has plans to enhance outdoor internet around libraries, community centers and parks.

For more information on how to get internet help contact San Jose's Digital Inclusion Team at (408)716-3811.