This is one in a series of Voices pieces by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. We’re calling it the Mayor’s Minute. Want to share your voice? You can contribute to NOOGAtoday here.
Earlier this week, we announced HCS EdConnect — an $8.2 million initiative powered by EPB, Hamilton County Schools, the City of Chattanooga, Hamilton County Government, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, and the Smart City Venture Fund to connect 28,500 students to 100 Mbps internet access at no cost.
High-speed broadband is a baseline need for every family. For work, for school, for our quality of life, the internet is not a luxury — it’s a utility.
Unfortunately, even here in “Gig City,” too many families are on the far side of the digital divide. Over the last several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many inequalities that remain in our country and our community. In a world that relies more than ever on strong connections, not being able to afford access to high-quality broadband service puts some families at a serious disadvantage.
But in Chattanooga, we tackle big problems with big solutions.
That’s what happened 10 years ago — we turned on the fastest, cheapest, most pervasive internet service in the world, and the results have been spectacular. Countless new start-up companies, new jobs, and millions of dollars of development in our Innovation District.
Now, we are bridging the digital divide once and for all by delivering 100 Mbps of internet access at no cost to every family with a child on free or reduced lunch. We’re the first community in the country to make this happen.
For our children, it is a connection to school, a way to do homework, and collaborate on special projects. For their families -— and remember, for every household that has a connection, it will be accessible to each family member — it can be a way to apply for jobs, attend church, or pay bills.
After all, the 21st Century is the age of innovation. To keep Chattanooga growing, we need Chattanoogans exploring, creating, educating, and connecting. Because of HCS EdConnect, tens of thousands of our residents will now have a greater ability to do just that. My thanks to everyone who continues to put the success of our students and families first.