Boston’s wifi wastelands leaving students and parents in the dark

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Large swathes of Boston residents are left in a digital wilderness, cut off from Wi-Fi, leaving school children and parents in the dark as society moves forward in a wired world.

“There are people here still waiting for a computer, and I wanted one so badly,” said Linda Howze, 60, from the South End. “It left me frustrated. I felt like I was lost to society. Most low-income people and people of color can’t afford a computer.

Angela Coulter, 59, hasn’t had one since 2003, so when the Boston Housing Authority stopped by her Mattapan development on Friday to deliver one, she said, “Of course I’m excited. I am honored. It’s a privilege to have one.

Mayor Michelle Wu and U.S. Senator Ed Markey announced an investment of more than $12 million this year to bring digital equity and inclusion to nearly 23,000 families with school-aged children, libraries and Boston public housing residents like Howze and Coulter.

According to the American Community Survey, which uses United States Census data.

“The digital divide creates a gap between those who have computers and reliable internet access and those who do not, reducing their ability to apply for jobs, participate in telehealth, do homework and engage with their families beyond cell phone use,” said Marvin Venay, advocacy manager for Tech Goes Home, a nonprofit that helps bring computers, internet and training to people.

“People who cannot afford computers or reliable internet that carries high bandwidth to support families with multiple users simultaneously are cut off from the day-to-day activities of society,” he said.

The Boston Housing Authority has about 3,000 Chromebooks and routers to distribute and expects that to be enough for the number of its 9,500 residents who have expressed interest in receiving them, said Lydia Agro, spokeswoman for the Boston Housing Authority. BHA.

The new funding also provided free Chromebooks to Boston public school students and free wireless broadband service and devices to help seniors and other public housing residents get online.

The BHA had also previously delivered a Chromebook and a hotspot to Howze, 60, who had never had a computer before.

Now she pays her bills on the laptop, uses email and on Zoom can see the family she had been cut off from since the first hit of COVID.

The digital divide in Massachusetts is one of many glaring inequalities the pandemic has exposed, according to local research firm MassINC. The nonprofit said the divide was seen as a primarily rural issue until schools were suddenly forced into remote learning, MassINC said.

Of the money Markey secured, Boston Public Schools received nearly $10 million for Chromebooks for its 55,000 students, most of whom are low-income and young people of color, and to support connectivity for 20 000 BPS families.

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