Philadelphia expanding 'PHLConnectED' free student internet program

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia is expanding its program to give free internet to students learning remotely in city schools. Eligibility for the PHLConnectED program is now being widened.

PHLConnectED is accepting income-eligible families who have students who have special needs, are learning English, or are receiving public benefits. Since August, the program has been providing free internet for K-12 students who had no in-home service, or those experiencing homelessness.

Otis Hackney, the mayor's Chief Education Officer, said through city programs and a Comcast offer the city has helped to get about 12,000 needy families online for remote learning. But he said thousands more remain.

“We know that there are still significant numbers of families but we really don't have an exact figure,” Hackney told reporters. “We know that we put a large dent in those families in terms of bringing them across the digital divide. But there's still a lot of outreach and families that we have to do for families to complete the process to get them on board.”

Hackney said many families may have started the process to get connected but never followed through.

“Whether they called 211 and they didn't pick up their hotspot yet or they did not finish the activation procedures for Internet Essentials, we really want to target those families right now,” he said.

Hackney says the city is promoting “PHLConnectED Week” this week with Twitter and Instagram contests where families can win gift cards.​