Pre-K families now eligible for internet access program

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Families with children enrolled in pre-kindergarten are now eligible for a city program providing free internet to households without reliable digital access, officials said Monday.

The multimillion-dollar initiative, called PHLConnectED, was rolled in August as most schools prepared to begin the academic year virtually and has been available for parents of students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

It provides families with a connection through Comcast’s Internet Essentials plan or a T-Mobile hotspot.

City leaders have framed the program as a digital equity effort, allowing adults and others in a participating household to access online job opportunities and telehealth visits.

PHLConnectED is scheduled to continue through next summer, no matter if and when students go back to in-person classes full-time.

“The pandemic has continued to show us that internet access is an essential service for all—regardless of age, and I’m glad that more families will be connected by the time they start kindergarten,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Monday.

Families can qualify for the program if they do not have internet access at all; only have internet access through a cellphone; or are homeless or experiencing housing insecurity.

Households can also sign up if they are enrolled in low-income programs like Medicaid or have students who are receiving special education or English language services, even if they have internet access.

Anyone who is interested in participating in the program can call 211.

More than 15,000 children have been connected to the internet through PHLConnectED, according to the Kenney administration.

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