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Mayor's New Plan to Provide Affordable Internet to More Chicagoans

citizen | 4/17/2013, 2 p.m.
Chicago has been selected as the pilot city by national non-profit Connect 2 Compete's EveryoneOn...
Rahm Emanuel

Chicago has been selected as the pilot city by national non-profit Connect 2 Compete's EveryoneOn campaign with the goal of bolstering internet access and digital literacy amongst its citizens.

Mayor Rahim Emanuel met with Connect 2 Compete's Chief Executive Officer, Zach Leverenz, to finalize a plan that would allow 1.1 million Chicagoans to purchase low-cost high-speed wireless internet service as an option. This new partnership between the City of Chicago and Connect 2 Compete is in conjunction with the 2011 initiative the city has with Comcast's Internet Essentials program.

"Digital skills are 21st century workforce skills, making digital literacy training and affordable access to high-speed Internet service game changers for children and adults," said Mayor Emanuel. "From day one we have worked to increase internet connectivity and knowledge for our residents, especially in neighborhoods that have traditionally been underserved. This is a great example of the public and the private sectors working together to craft innovative solutions to prepare our workforce for the global economy."

A recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that there is a 14 to 17 percent wage increase for employees that use the Internet or a computer at work. Chicagoans in targeted communities that have received technology training from the City's computer centers have shown a 13 percent increase in the likelihood of finding a job and/or having their wages increased.

"The digital divide is solvable now, and the solution requires collective will and bold action. We are excited to be launching this pilot in Chicago and look forward to continuing it in cities across the country," said Zach Leverenz, Chief Executive Officer of Connect 2 Compete.

Chicago has utilized federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program funding and different resources to:

*Establish free Wi-Fi at 28 public computer center sites and upgraded free Wi-Fi at 66 Chicago Public Library branches;

*Provide over 180,000 hours of instructor-led technology training to 29,300 Chicagoans citywide;

*Help at least 570 Chicagoans find jobs through 180,000 one-on-one CyberNavigator assistance sessions at the libraries;

*Deliver technology training to over 1,000 small businesses;

*Provide out-of-school digital media programming to 1,350 youth;

*Establish the Connect Chicago network to bring together over 250 locations that offer free digital skills training throughout the City; and

*Install over 1,400 computer stations at 170 public computer centers citywide, located in CHA facilities, CCC campuses, community centers, libraries and Veterans Resource Centers.

By Lee Edwards