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Governor Cooper’s WiFi hot spot plans move forward for NC students

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 11:39 PM EDT
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GASTON, N.C. (WBTV) - Governor Roy Cooper is making moves so your kids aren’t falling behind in online classes at home. It’s been highlighted how a lack of internet is a problem for some families within the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District.

The governor is turning as many as 280 school buses into hotspots throughout the entire state. It’s similar to what CMS already has going for its students.

Governor Cooper, AT&T, Duke Energy Foundation and Google are targeting specific areas with the least amount of internet capabilities to help students keep up, by giving them a better online connection.

Pat Millen, the head of E2D or Eliminate the Digital Divide says it’s a big deal for the state to get involved.

“We’re really encouraged at the fact that the governor is making this move,” said Millen.

It’s a plan the governor started crafting after he announced schools would continue remote learning through the end of this school year.

“So this is not a political move that he’s doing right now. This is nearly fulfilling what any leader at the state level ought to be doing,” he said.

Out of the 280 buses that are planned to go out, the first 156 buses went out Wednesday. Some of that fleet is going to Gaston and Avery Counties. The digital divide has many sides. Some families can’t afford an internet bill. While others live in the rural part of town – often considered a dead zone.

“There are companies in Charlotte that are not particularly motivated to drive down certain streets and bring last-mile access to every neighborhood and that’s a problem,” Millen added.

Millen has been working on solutions too. Not all students have a computer at home. Millen gets used laptops that would otherwise be tossed out by businesses to refurbish and sell to families for only $75.

“Some incoming computers came last week from Barrings Bank. This is huge. To get 110 computers in the middle of this pandemic is amazing,” he added.

Lowe’s is another company he’s partnered with. Still, the demand for laptops is too high for him to fulfill every request for students who otherwise end up having to do homework on cellphones.

“The truth of the matter is, is that the need is in the 10’s of thousands ... our ability is in the 100’s,” he said.

If you live in the areas where the state is sending the hotspots buses, you’ll also be able to connect to the WiFi to apply for unemployment or get in touch with a doctor.

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