- Up to 25 Wi-Fi "SuperSpots" will be installed throughout San Francisco for the thousands of students who don’t have access to the internet at home while schools are closed during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to an announcement from Mayor London Breed.
- The SuperSpots will be installed in parts of the city with the highest demand, including public housing sites, single-room occupancy buildings, community centers and other neighborhood areas where there is a high concentration of students without internet access.
- Each of the chosen locations will provide internet access for 100 users. The initiative is a partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), the 1Million Project Foundation and the nonprofit organization EducationSuperHighway.
The San Francisco Housing Authority, the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development and SFUSD will deploy the Wi-Fi starting the week of April 13 and identify the locations for the units, according to the city’s announcement.
The city is also working to disperse additional Wi-Fi hotspots as complements to the existing, high-speed free internet that’s provided to low-income residents via the city’s Fiber to Housing Program, according to the official announcement.
"Every student in San Francisco needs to be able to stay connected to their teachers and classmates and keep learning as they stay home with their families during this time, regardless of where they live or if their family can afford to pay for high-speed internet," Breed said in a statement.
Twenty-nine percent of SFUSD students don’t have internet access at home and up to 10,000 students in grades 3-12 are estimated to be in need of Wi-Fi and device access at home.
SFUSD has also provided over 5,400 devices to students and expects that an additional 4,000 students will need devices in time for the April 13 launch of the district's distance learning program.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted racial and socioeconomic disparities in internet and device access across U.S. cities. In Boston, the city is working to address the digital divide by providing high school students with a free "cell phone/hotspot" through the 1Million Project. Boston Public Schools are also providing a Chromebook to students in need of a device.
In Louisville, KY, the Jefferson County Public Schools said they will disperse 25,000 Chromebooks to students. And in New York, the city also has 25,000 Chromebooks in stock to give students, but still has about 300,000 students who lack access to devices, Bloomberg reports.
Last week, Google announced it would support learning from home with 100,000 Wi-Fi access points for free for the next three months throughout the state. The American Library Association has also announced it is encouraging libraries to keep their Wi-Fi open for people to have access to the internet.
To keep up with all of our coverage on how the new coronavirus is impacting U.S. cities, visit our daily tracker.