Chancellor Fariña And Others Announce New Intiative To Offer Free Wi-Fi To Students And Families

September 29, 2016

Fariña with studentsSchools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced a new partnership with the City’s three library systems, Google and Sprint to offer free Wi-Fi hotspots available for year-long rental to public school students and families to increase internet access at home.

The initiative – the next round of the Library HotSpot program – will launch in 46 library branches across the City, primarily in high-need neighborhoods with low internet connectivity. The branches, which are run by the Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Library, and New York Public Library’s in Harlem and uptown include:

 are all located near DOE Community Schools (click HERE to find a location outside of Harlem).

Community Schools are neighborhood hubs where students receive high-quality academic instruction, families can access social services, and communities congregate to share resources and address their common challenges. This program recognizes that in order for a student to succeed in school, we need to eliminate the learning barriers to ensure equity and excellence for all families. Community Schools support students, engage families, and strengthen communities from all sides; integrating academics, health, youth development, and family engagement and providing access to critical programs and services like vision screening, mentoring, expanded learning programs, adult education, mental health counseling and internet access, which directly support a student’s learning.

Eligibility to borrow one of the 5,000 free hotspots, which are powered by Sprint as part of the White House’s ConnectED Initiative, extends to City residents who are over 18, report no internet at home, report having at least one public school student in grades pre-K through 12, have a fine-free library card, and attend a lending event at one of the participating branches. There is a limit of one hotspot per family and the hotspots are loaned for one year. While qualifying families can have students in any public school, the program will target students at Community Schools by coordinating outreach with Community School partners, parent coordinators, and school leaders. Library staff will hold information sessions and lending events in targeted Community Schools.

“We’re committed to Equity and Excellence for all New York City students, and this will help create expanded opportunities for students to complete homework, research, and thrive outside of school,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Partnerships are a cornerstone of Community Schools and I am pleased that all three library systems have joined forces with our schools in support of their students and families. This initiative will be available for all students and families, and we encourage them to take advantage of this resource.”

“If one-third of all New York City households were without electricity or indoor plumbing, we would be rightly appalled – yet somehow, in 2016, one in three Brooklyn families remains on the wrong side of the digital divide, unable to access the transformative power of the internet at home,” said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson. “Children who cannot use the internet to work on school projects are at risk of falling behind in the classroom, while adults from unconnected households often face challenges in finding satisfying, well-paid employment. There is no substitute for home internet access, and Brooklyn Public Library is proud to partner with the DOE to loan mobile hotspots to the New Yorkers who need them most.”

“In New York City in the 21st century, our kids – our future – must have access to the internet at home,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “We regularly see children doing their homework outside of our branches before we open and after we close so that they can access the Wi-Fi leaking from our walls. The City has done so much to address this divide, and we are so grateful to now have the Department of Education as one of our partners along with Google and Sprint and the Mayor’s Office in an initiative to improve web access and open new doors of opportunity for New York City students.”

“More than 800,000 households in New York City don’t have a broadband connection to the Internet, posing a barrier to opportunity for school-aged children who are already at risk of being left behind,” said Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “Our mission is to provide access to lifelong learning, whether it’s through a door to our community libraries, educational programming or the Internet. We’re grateful to Sprint, Google, and the Department of Education for enabling us to offer students another gateway to information.”

“In this day and age students need access to the internet in order to complete homework and other assignments,” said NYC Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “Yet internet access is cost prohibitive for many New York families.  These free Wi-Fi hotspots will help ensure that students have the tools they need to excel academically. This is great news for public education.”

“As technology continues to advance, there are several communities that remain disconnected. A reliable Internet connection has become a basic necessity to all: an essential tool in a child’s educational journey. I applaud Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, our three library systems and Google on establishing a robust ConnectED initiative. It’s imperative for families to have access to the Internet, because it is as vital at home as it is in our classrooms and libraries. This initiative will provide a critical amenity to our City’s greatest assets – our students,” said Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo.

“Many City students are unable to connect to the internet from home and therefore don’t have sufficient access to educational resources and opportunities,” said Ben Fried, Google’s Chief Information Officer. “Extending the Library HotSpot program to reach those students, many of whom are students of color, is a simple, effective way to help address the digital inequity in our school system so that every child has the chance to learn and participate in our modern economy. With this donation of $1 million, Google is continuing to invest in its efforts to provide some of the most underserved in our City with a viable way to bridge the digital divide.”

“Providing connectivity that empowers citizens and improves the quality of life for all New Yorkers is at the heart of everything we do” said Karen Paletta, Sprint Regional President. “It is with great pride and purpose that Sprint supports the ConnectED initiative and in doing so makes this contribution to the New York City Department of Education. It is our hope that the connectivity Sprint provides will help close the digital divide and offer universal opportunity and growth for New York City students and their families.”

“The internet is a commonplace educational tool in our schools,” said Desmond White, Chief Information Officer for the DOE. “We want our students to continue learning after the school day and on the weekends, and expanding availability to reliable internet access is a significant step toward achieving that goal.”

“Community Schools are built upon the belief that it takes support from all sides to prepare students for success, and that we must create a bridge between a student’s school and home life,” said Christopher Caruso, Executive Director of the Office of Community Schools. “With more and more classroom learning and research being done online, we need to ensure that all students have access to the same resources at home as they do in school. Families are essential partners, and we look forward to helping them take advantage of this new resource.”

The Library HotSpot program started as a small pilot by The New York Public Library (which serves the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island) in December 2014 to help close the digital divide and address the needs of over 2 million New Yorkers who do not have access to broadband internet at home. In April of 2015, the program grew, and the City’s three library systems partnered with the City and Google to loan hotspots at branches across the City.

Find out more about this program at

Photo credit: Fariña-with-students in Harlem (thrid from left in red and white checked shirt).

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