Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Gov. Cooper Announces Nearly $40M to Connect Students and Communities to High-Speed Internet, Help Educators with Remote Learning

Nearly $40 million is going to NC Student Connect, a partnership tackling internet connectivity gaps that disrupt remote learning for N.C. students.
Sep 9, 2020

Today, Gov. Roy Cooper announced nearly $40 million in funding for NC Student Connect, a new partnership created to address internet connectivity gaps that are a barrier to remote learning for many North Carolina students. 

When school resumed in August, superintendents estimated that at least 100,000 students still lacked a reliable internet connection at home. 

Many North Carolina students are attending school remotely and need reliable internet access to be able to connect with their teachers and access their lessons. Students who are attending school onsite may also need internet access at home to be able to complete assignments.

"Long before COVID-19, expanding access to high-speed internet has been a top priority for my administration, and this pandemic has made the need even more urgent," said Cooper. "NC Student Connect will make critical investments in high-speed internet access and remote learning that will help students, health care and businesses in our state."

Today's NC Student Connect investment includes:

  • $30 million to distribute 100,000 wireless high-speed hot spots for students to connect with their remote learning classes. 
  • $8 million to create accessible sites in convenient locations across the state, such as school parking lots, municipal areas and state parks, museums and historic sites. These NC Student Connect sites will provide free high-speed internet for students to connect to the internet to download lessons and complete assignments offline.
  • $2 million for educator professional development, parent training and student involvement in a spectrum of activities that go into effective remote learning. More than 1,300 educators from rural North Carolina have already participated in a virtual conference focused on remote learning to help better prepare them to teach throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about that conference.  

NC Student Connect is a partnership across state government including the N.C. Department of Information Technology, the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Cooper's Hometown Strong initiative and the N.C. Business Committee for Education, an educational nonprofit in the Governor's Office. 

These and other agencies have already worked to build partnerships to help leverage public investments to increase internet access in underserved communities. Purchasing began before Labor Day, and thousands of hot spots will be shipped to school systems this week and will continue throughout the month.

"This announcement illustrates the state's unwavering commitment in connecting all our students and all of North Carolina," said NCDIT Acting Secretary Thomas Parrish. "There's no greater action than investing in our children, our future world-changers. We are grateful to our private partners and all those who are assisting in this effort. Our tomorrow says thank you."

"As a parent with a child that is remote learning at home, I can testify to the urgent need for devices with high-speed connectivity," said DNCR Secretary Susi Hamilton. "As a leader in state government, I can answer the governor's call to help school children by lending them devices through our State Library and add to their learning experience through the outdoor and cultural programming that this department offers."

"Today's actions significantly advance Gov. Cooper’s commitment to quality, accessible high-speed internet for every North Carolina school district. Our Remote Learning Working Group continues to produce meaningful solutions for our most marginalized students. The time is now for bold, innovative and collaborative solutions that deliver high-speed internet to every North Carolina home," said Jeremy Collins, director of Innovative Connectivity with Hometown Strong.

"Google is proud to work with our state, local and corporate partners to provide innovative connectivity solutions – such as our Rolling Hotspots program in North Carolina – to help students access Wi-Fi. NCBCE's Remote Learning Working Group is thrilled that the state will invest in the NC Student Connect Program and provide professional development for educators as part of a collective effort to make it possible for more students to engage in school work remotely,” said Lilyn Hester, head of External Affairs - Southeast, Google, who serves as vice chairwoman of NCBCE and chairwoman of the NCBCE Remote Learning Working Group.

Initial private-sector investments in remote learning and NC Student Connect include AT&T, Duke Energy Foundation, Fidelity Investments, Google, Smithfield Foundation, Verizon Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation.

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