With many students set to begin remote learning again in a few weeks, thousands of low-income families are still without access to the internet.
According to a report from April, there is a digital divide in NYC and 500,000 homes have no Wi-Fi.
On Aug. 17, Congressional Candidate Councilman Ritchie Torres sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio calling on him to put pressure on Spectrum and Optimum to provide Wi-Fi services to low-income families with school-aged children who cannot afford to pay through August 2021.
“This is unacceptable for our children and families in the midst of a devastating pandemic that has disproportionately affected vulnerable populations and communities of color in particular, who are in greatest need of our advocacy and support,” Torres said in the letter. “These Internet providers have been profiting off the backs of low-income families and charging exorbitant fees in the midst of this unprecedented crisis.”
Torres, who is the chair of the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, will lead an investigation and Council hearing into this matter unless Spectrum and Optimum do right by families and provide Wi-Fi services to low-income students in need.
In the spring, these companies offered free Wi-Fi for 60 days to new customers with K-12 or college students at home due to the pandemic. However, when that time period ended, the Wi-Fi was not renewed. In the meantime, COVID-19 is still ongoing and many people are out of work and choosing food and rent over the internet.
“During these unprecedented times, we need Wi-Fi providers’ commitment to help keep students connected and supported while engaged in remote learning,” Torres said in the letter. “Reliable, affordable Internet service is a necessity in this critical moment, and charging expensive fees for it is unconscionable during this public health crisis. It is imperative that the city demand this essential service from Spectrum and Optimum so that families and students can stay connected to their classrooms. Free Wi-Fi service will provide desperately needed relief to New Yorkers who need it most during this crisis.”