(CBS DETROIT) – Residents of Detroit, Inkster, Flint and Washtenaw County will soon benefit from expanded free Wi-Fi access at more than 50 community locations across S.E. Michigan. The effort, part of Merit Network’s Michigan Moonshot initiative, was supported by contributions from the Toyota USA Foundation and Cisco. Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Merit Network provided in-kind contributions for the project.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Detroit Public Schools has the highest number of households in the state without internet access at 82,894. The Flint School District has the second highest number with 14,221 households without internet access. In addition, 57% of K-12 students in Washtenaw County do not have high speed Wi-Fi access at home.
“For thousands of students across the state of Michigan, the pandemic has introduced new challenges or highlighted existing ones. We expect this to help both rural and urban communities access the internet for basic informational needs tied to living, learning and working,” said Charlotte Bewersdorff, Merit Network’s vice president for Community Engagement.
The grants address the digital divide by providing community organizations with the technological ability to extend their existing internet connectivity through Wi-Fi networks which are accessible outside the buildings. Detroit Public Library will extend their Wi-Fi network beyond the walls of nine select sites, during normal business hours. Washtenaw Intermediate School District is coordinating 30 different access points at area schools and community partners across the county.
“As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our nation, Toyota is proud to partner with Michigan Moonshot and Cisco to expand free Wi-Fi to Southeast Michigan area schools, libraries and community gathering locations to provide an immediate solution to this urgent issue of access,” said Chris Reynolds, chief administrative officer, Toyota Motor North America.
Beyond Washtenaw County where Toyota has its North American research and development headquarters, the Toyota USA Foundation provided grants to help address the digital divide in 13 states across the nation.
Internet access at community sites is powered and secured by Cisco’s next-generation Wi-Fi and cloud security technology. The overall effort is supported through Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program, which has over 900 active or completed mass-scale digitization projects in 37 countries around the world.
“It is our responsibility as business leaders to step up and mobilize the tools and innovations at our disposal to help curtail the growing disparities in our communities caused by the digital divide,” said Nick Michaelides, senior vice president, U.S. Public Sector at Cisco. “We are proud to launch this initiative alongside Merit and Toyota to help ensure equity of access, and to power an inclusive future for all Michiganders.”
Moving into the future, the Michigan Moonshot will continue to identify and lessen the impacts of inequitable access to broadband internet with the help from our communities. If your community, private or philanthropic organization is interested in supporting local Community Access Network sites, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view an interactive map of all locations and hours of operation, please visit MichiganMoonshot.org/CommunityWiFi
ABOUT THE MICHIGAN MOONSHOT
The Michigan Moonshot is a collective call to action which aims to bridge the digital divide in Michigan. Stakeholders include Merit Network, the nation’s longest-running research and education network, the Quello Center at Michigan State University and M-Lab, the largest open internet measurement platform in the world. This call to action is an initiative to expand broadband access to all citizens through policy and funding, data and mapping, education and resources. Learn more about the Michigan Moonshot at Merit.edu/moonshot.
ABOUT MERIT NETWORK
Merit Network, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation owned and governed by Michigan’s public universities. Merit owns and operates America’s longest-running regional research and education network. In 1966, Michigan’s public universities created Merit as a shared resource to help meet their common need for networking assistance. Since its formation, Merit Network has remained at the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking and IT solutions to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations. For more information: www.merit.edu.
Cisco is the worldwide leader in technology that powers the Internet. Cisco inspires new possibilities by reimagining your applications, securing your data, transforming your infrastructure, and empowering your teams for a global and inclusive future. Discover more at newsroom.cisco.com and follow us on Twitter at @Cisco.
Toyota has been a part of the cultural fabric in North America for more than 60 years, and is committed to advancing sustainable, next-generation mobility through our Toyota and Lexus brands plus our 1,800 dealerships.
Toyota has created a tremendous value chain and directly employs more than 47,000 in North America. The company has contributed world-class design, engineering, and assembly of more than 40 million cars and trucks at our 14 manufacturing plants, 15 including our joint venture in Alabama that begins production in 2021.
The Toyota USA Foundation is a charitable endowment created to support education programs serving kindergarten through 12th-grade students and their teachers in the United States, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). For more information about the Toyota USA Foundation, visit www.toyota.com/foundation.
ABOUT WASHTENAW INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DISTRICT
Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) is the educational service agency for Washtenaw County, Michigan, serving nine public school districts and the public school academies in the greater Ann Arbor region. WISD provides an array of services to the community and local schools, including: special education leadership and coordination, early childhood services, technology support, business and human resources assistance, cradle-to-career community partnerships, and teacher and staff professional development. For more information, visit www.washtenawisd.org.
SOURCE Merit Network
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