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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Madison to address 'Digital Divide'

The city of Madison announced Tuesday that it will be addressing the barrier some citizens face to accessing affordable Internet through a new program called Connecting Madison.

Common Council established the Digital Technology Committee in 2013 with the mission of “making studies and recommendations relative to facilitating the provision of internet access to all citizens with special attention to low income families, realizing additional benefits from and [expanded] utilization of the Metropolitan Unified Fiber Network…”

Connecting Madison is what came of that committee to ensure Internet access for low-income families. The program is a pilot, serving four areas: Allied Drive, Darbo Worthington, Brentwood and Kennedy Heights Apartments. Those areas will be able to obtain Internet for as little as $9.99 per month

The Internet is being made available through the installation of fiber optic networks. The infrastructure will be able to serve approximately 1,050 families, according to the city’s information technology department.

The project hopes to connect adults to online job applications, banking and doctor appointments, while ensuring all children have access to the Internet for education.

In addition to providing Internet to low-income citizens, the program also seeks to increase technological access through cheap used computers and educational services.

The city is partnering with DANEnet, a technical support nonprofit, to bring six workshops to all four neighborhoods annually. The workshops will be offered in English, Hmong and Spanish. The curricula will vary by need and neighborhood.

The city is also working with Cascade Asset Management, a local company that refurbishes and recycles electronic equipment in a way that is environmentally responsible, to bring low-cost or free computers to residents of the areas. Both corporate donors and the city of Madison will be contributing old equipment for the program. Cascade with then work with DANEnet to distribute the products to residents.

Construction of the fiber optic network and full implementation of the programs are expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

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