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Lightfoot: Free High Speed Internet Available To 100,000 CPS Students

CHICAGO (CBS) -- More than 100,000 CPS students will now have free access to high speed internet, thanks to a new $50 million project.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the inception of "Chicago Connected," a program to give free high-speed internet service to Chicago Public School students and their homes. She said it's a first-of-its-kind program and it's set to be one of the biggest efforts in the country to give free, high-speed internet. The project will go through four years and it's scheduled to start this fall.

"Reliable, high-speed internet is one of the most powerful equalizers when it comes to accessing information," Lightfoot said. "It allows families to access digital remote learning and stay connected to family near and far, especially during COVID-19. It allows families to build career skills, apply for jobs, register to vote and stay up-to-date on current events. This program is a critical component of our STEP agenda and the efforts to end poverty and a part of our mission to drive improved academic outcomes at CPS."

The program will be funded by various philanthropic organizations and private donations, including from President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

"Michelle and I want every kid in Chicago to grow up knowing even better opportunities than we had, and that requires full and equitable access to the best tools and resources. We're happy to help Chicago Connected reach every kid in the city. This is where I found a purpose and a family, and it'll always be our home." Obama said.

Visit the Chicago Connected website for more details on the project.

Lightfoot said the recent effort to engage in remote learning as schools closed because of COVID-19 highlighted the challenges many CPS students faced while trying to engage in e-learning.

"I can remember saying to folks, two years ago as I was traveling across the city during my campaign, literally, there are places you go and it's like you're going into an underground bunker, because there's no connectivity," Lightfoot said. "You have to solve it (and it) makes sense to me that we're starting with our children, certainly our hope is that we will be back in classes safely. We better prepare for either occasions, by which it was real, and we're starting to tackle it with this investment."

Lightfoot also addressed the dramatic Chicago Board of Education vote to keep a $33 million contract with CPD for officers in public schools.

"I am glad that the board decision came down in the way that it did. What's critically important, and I think you underscored by why we're here and who is here in the school community," Lightfoot said. "Every school is unique, and every school community is unique. It is not for me as a mayor or Dr. Janice Jackson as a CEO to dictate to multiple schools, what resources they need some teachers to have."



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