Initiative to battle dearth of at-home Internet access launches in Philadelphia

Philly Tech Week kicked off in earnest on Monday. However, as the celebration of all things tech begins, 41 percent of Philadelphians don’t have Internet access at home.

That’s a number Zach Leverenz knows all too well. The CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Connect2Compete was at Philadelphia’s Central Library to launch a program designed to tackle that gaping digital divide.

“I come from a rural place on the wrong side of the digital divide,” Leverenz said. “First time I got online was 17 years old at a library, like, not like this one — a very small one in rural Appalachia.”

The program, called EveryoneOn, offers discounted broadband, affordable computers and free digital training classes.

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“There’s a lot of poverty in Philadelphia, and it’s in pockets,” said Leverenz. “We see urban areas and very rural areas as the two places where this is most devastating.”

Nationally, almost one-third of Americans don’t have in-home Internet access. Leverenz says the digital divide maps closely with the opportunity divide. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who also spoke at the announcement, agrees.

“Those communities are the most vulnerable, the most needy, but have the most to gain from this online engagement. And that is why it’s so important,” Clyburn said.

The EveryoneOn initiative is funded for three years in Philadelphia by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Program director Donna Frisby-Greenwood says it was launched during Tech Week for a reason: “These are exactly the people we need to understand that everyone’s not connected.”

People who want to see if they are eligible for the new program can call 1-855-EVRY-1-ON.

Disclosure: WHYY has received funding from the Knight Foundation.

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