City Seeks to Close Digital Divide through Access Charlotte
Published on June 21, 2023
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (June 21, 2023) – The City of Charlotte is excited to launch a scaled-up Access Charlotte program, an initiative that recognizes the urgency of the digital divide and reiterates the city’s commitment to bridging that gap.
Building off a successful small-scale pilot program, Access Charlotte will improve and size up to provide free Spectrum Internet and Advanced Wi-Fi to over 5,000 households and 15 community spaces. Using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the city will implement the two-year program to pay for in-home internet, as well as allocate dollars toward efforts related to digital navigators.
“We are so excited about launching Access Charlotte on this scale,” said Mayor Vi Lyles. “This is an initiative that can help solve a glaring divide in our community and improve the quality of life for our residents.”
Households in the Access Charlotte program area are eligible for this initiative regardless of whether they are current Spectrum customers. Those who are not current customers can sign up to request a self-installation kit and start receiving the service by calling 1-855-326-5115 or visiting a specialized Spectrum website. Current customers will automatically be included in the program.
“Charter is pleased to join with Mayor Lyles and the city to deliver vital broadband through Access Charlotte,” said Spectrum Community Solutions Senior Vice President Keith Dardis. “The city’s commitment to creating this powerful public-private partnership will bring fast, reliable broadband and in-home Wi-Fi to thousands of families across the city — enabling residents to participate fully in today’s digital world for work, learning, entertainment and staying connected.”
Jamar Davis 00:00
Access Charlotte started in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. Folks didn't have access to hardware, didn't have access to proper internet. Students were using their phone to be able to access and do schoolwork. Access Charlotte kind of felt that need to touch base into some of those who live in the affordable housing communities. To be able to access hardware, digital online resources, and internet.
My name is Jamar Davis. I'm the Access Charlotte coordinator for the Innovation and Technology department. My role primarily is around managing the needs of the Access Charlotte program. Being a part of this team has been essential and seeing how intricate and important data is to this work that we do under Access Charlotte. As we've gone into phase two of this program, starting off from phase one, where there was access to public Wi-Fi, phase two really puts us into a space of touching over 60 properties versus phase one was 14. And now we're going from 1,800 households to about 8,000 households to impact. Thanks to our partners over to center for digital equity. They have revved up their workforce to provide Access Charlotte digital navigators to appoint them directly under Access Charlotte to connect the residents to hardware, digital resources and others small technical support opportunities.
Thanks to our partners at the Mecklenburg County Library. They're open to provide opportunities of learning. Goodwill is also providing opportunities of learning for folks to be able to connect and elevate to improve their status in terms of work using E2D which is a nonprofit company around eliminating digital divide by connecting residents to computers and other hardware. Also through 311. They can call 311 as simply as if they were to call to schedule trash pickup, they can call and ask for a digital navigator. I consider myself lucky. My mom came from IT. For me it I had internet at 13 years old. So when the numbers came back around, folks not having access to internet and not even having access to hardware, and there being a space for that here in the city.
I've had friends whose parents had benefited from this opportunity, just from me just spreading the word around Meck Tech Connect and providing hardware. Or just me saying if you're a parent, if your parent, or if your cousin or your niece lives in these areas, guess what — internet's coming. It feels wonderful. It does feel to get to that point of knowing that internet especially internet is almost a utility, rather than something of luxury.
Spectrum Community Solutions offers industry-leading wired and wireless broadband and video services — including gigabit connections — to residents of apartments, off-campus student housing, senior residences, RV parks and marinas throughout Charter’s 41-state service area. The connectivity Spectrum will be providing for the program will include security measures to help protect users from online threats.
In addition to free internet access with no modem fees, data caps or contracts, Access Charlotte program participants will be served by digital navigators. Digital navigators are individuals whose purpose is to help meet digital needs such as technical support, education surrounding other available resources, and digital literacy training. Assistance can be requested from a digital navigator by calling 311 or using the CLT+ app.
“This program has the potential to bring much-needed help and resources to many Charlotte residents,” said City of Charlotte Chief Technology Officer Markell Storay. “We are committed to closing the digital divide in our city, and we are thrilled to see Access Charlotte get off the ground.”
When work, education and communication transitioned online during pandemic lockdowns, the digital divide was pushed to the forefront as an urgent issue. Digital access is an essential need, and the Access Charlotte program is a step toward making a truly equitable city.
Visit the Smart Charlotte webpage to learn more about the vital work that is being done around the city to address the digital divide.