CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – A network of community partners working to comprehensively bridge the digital divide for Hamilton County students in need came together to thank state leaders for dedicating more than $3 million in Tennessee Community CARES funding toward the effort.
The new funding helps advance several carefully coordinated initiatives by more than a dozen public-private partners. Hamilton County Schools serves as the hub for reaching the goal of providing all students with internet access - along with the devices needed to learn online. This project is funded under a grant with the State of Tennessee, created to help communities solve obstacles the pandemic has caused.
Through the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS), The Enterprise Center will receive about $1.5 million to help students continue their studies during the pandemic by providing fiber optic internet connectivity at home for some 28,000 Hamilton County Schools students at no charge to families for up to 10 years through HCS EdConnect powered by EPB. At the same time, Public Education Foundation (PEF) and the Chattanooga Chamber Foundation will use nearly $1.5 million in Tennessee Community CARES funding to provide about 3,200 Chromebooks and tablet devices to help close the device gap, allowing all students to learn from home as schools respond to COVID-19.
Providing fiber optic internet for all students
Tennessee Community Cares funding will also provide The Enterprise Center with $1.52 million in support for HCS EdConnect powered by EPB. Launched in July, this program provides home-based fiber optic internet connectivity at no charge to the families of as many as 28,000 Hamilton County students who meet the federal economic benchmarks for free and reduced lunch. The service includes fiber optic broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps and no data caps along with a WiFi router. The Enterprise Center and Tech Goes Home Chattanooga will also play a significant role in facilitating communications and delivering technical support for HCS EdConnect.