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Internet ready learning zones launched

Denise Molina-Weiger
Peoria Public Radio

Some local community organizations, Peoria Public Library and Peoria Public Schools are working to bridge the digital divide by offering free WiFi service. Comcast is supplying the service for free or at a reduced cost to various organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Peoria, the Dream and East Bluff Community Centers, St. Paul's Baptist Church as well as some Peoria Public Schools.

The goal for the so-called "Internet Essentials Learning Zones" is to make sure students and their parents have internet access as well as digital literacy training programs. Debra Piscola is with Comcast. She says the program ensures students have the internet access they need to do their homework and continue their education throughout the summer. She says it’s also beneficial for parents.

“How many jobs can you apply for today that don’t require you to apply for them online? 80% of Fortune 500 companies have an online application. So we just believe that by making low-cost internet service available to students and their families really will help to increase digital literacy and bridge that digital divide.”

Piscola says Comcast’s Internet Essentials program also provides low-income families with low-cost broadband service for ten dollars a month. Families can also purchase an Internet-ready computer through the program for about 150-dollars a month. Households must have at least one child eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program to qualify.

District 150 estimates 70% of its students likely do not have internet access at home. District 150 Superintendent Granita Lathan says students visiting several of the organizations offering free WiFi will also have access to free breakfast and lunch through the Summer Food Service Program.