digital divide

State and City Leaders Roll Out Free Wi-Fi to Underserved Communities

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State and city leaders are working to help underserved communities struggling with internet accessibility.

"We want to make sure that we are building back downtown and our whole community in a way that allows it to be sustainable," said Mayor Ben Florsheim of Middletown.

The Everybody Learns Initiative is a part of a push by the Lamont administration to create access to broadband.

Boosting accessibility to technology is one of the main goals of this initiative.

"This is something more than just making sure that our Wi-Fi is available and free of charge to everybody," said Governor Lamont. "It's really a statement about where the state is going."

According to state leaders, funding needed for the transponders that provide access to the Wi-Fi and necessary to expand the initiative will come from the CARES Act and potentially the American Rescue Plan, should legislators and the president sign off on a new stimulus package.

In addition to boosting business and attracting more foot traffic, city leaders also aim to help students.

"We want to provide this not only for our families but more importantly to deepen and strengthen our strategy on how we create an innovative education system within Middletown," said Dr. Michael T. Conner, superintendent of Middletown Public Schools.

Those in the city believe the initiative is a great first step but want leaders to expand it beyond just downtown.

"I think it's a great idea if it's going to help people within the city," said Barbara Davis. "However, I hope they will put the transponders near schools or where people probably or most likely can't afford it, I think it might be a better idea than putting it here at the library - the library already has Wi-Fi."

At the same time, business owners believe free Wi-Fi could entice new clientele.

"It would mean a lot to have my customers connect to the Wi-Fi instead of having to pay for it," said Semso Cecunjanin, who owns a barbershop in downtown Middletown.

The public will be available to access the free Wi-Fi beginning Friday or once the installation is completed by engineers which could be sooner than the end of the week.

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