Arizona families get help to bridge the digital divide

Efforts are being made to end the digital divide among students. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro joined with Cox Communications President Pat Esser to announce a program to provide cheaper internet access to low-income families.

“Today with this announcement by Cox, we’re going to be able to reach overall of about 430-thousand children with low income in the United States,” Sec. Castro said.

HUD’s ConnectHome initiative helps students and their families get connected. Access to the internet is important for homework, job applications, and accessing benefits.

“This started out as a program working through the schools and we’ve expanded it to these HUD communities because that’s the next best opportunity… to bridge the digital divide,” John Wolfe, the Senior Vice President and Southwest manager for Cox Communications said.

“If kids don’t have access to the Internet at home they start to fall behind in school because so many teachers today are assigning work over the Internet, students do their research over the Internet and if you don’t have that access at home you really are put behind the eight ball,” Wolfe continued. “Our view is that no kid should have a disadvantage at school because they don’t have Internet access at home, it’s just that simple.”

With the cost of $9.95 per month, families of the Phoenix Landing Apartment community who had a child attending school were able to sign up right away and get started on the installation.

Miguel Duarte, a sophomore at North High School, is one of the students who was able to get online at home for the first time on Thursday.

“Its kind of been bit of a challenge because most of my work has been on a computer,” Duarte said. “It’s been hard because all this work I’ve had to keep my grades up have actually been through the internet and through a computer. I’ve had no access to it. I’ve have had to find different ways to access it. Now that I have access to it, it’s going to be way easier for me.”

Duarte would access computers at school before classes to try to finish his homework, or go to public libraries.

“I feel like I’ve been left out ya know because I see other students and my schoolmates over there having internet. You know I’m over here, like, ‘oh you know I’ll have it one day too’ but I guess today is the day so I’m very excited,” Duarte said. “Now that I have access to it and have better grades I’ll be able to keep up with my work and show everybody that I can be able to it as everybody else too, so actually I’m very happy.”

Not only is Duarte using this tool in hopes of improving his grades, but is also using it in hopes for future employment.

“We’re very happy, very happy for him he’s the one who more he uses the Internet for school, he needs it for school for the homework,” his mother, Elva Duarte said. “He wants to work now so he can be able to apply online so I’m very happy for him and myself too.”