Funding for RCSD student internet access announced

Statement from County Legislator Rachel Barnhart:

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the need for high speed, affordable broadband. This is especially true for students who are learning remotely. That’s why I am excited to share some important news.

As the school year began, Rochester City School District teachers and families complained that Mi-Fi devices, secured from Sprint’s foundation before the pandemic, have data caps of 10 gigabits per month. After students run through the data – easy to do on Zoom – the speeds get throttled to make the devices virtually useless. To make matters worse, Sprint merged with T-Mobile, so it is not changing the terms of service for those Mi-Fi’s.

I took the problem to County Executive Adam Bello, as well as our informal broadband working group made up of several county legislators, City Councilmember Mary Lupien, Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Simeon Banister and Rob Poltrino from the Shore Foundation.

Just a couple weeks later, we have a solution that will provide high speed internet without data caps to all RCSD students in need for the rest of the year. T-Mobile’s foundation is rushing new Mi-Fi devices to the district.  Monroe County is joining philanthropic partners to pay for unlimited data. The arrangement was announced today and featured in the Democratic and Chronicle.

I’m grateful to the County Executive and local foundations for acting so quickly. This is a game-changer for thousands of students struggling to connect to class. It’s clear that we need longer term solutions to bridging the digital divide. I am confident this is the just beginning of our work together on this important issue.