EPB to provide internet for Hamilton County Schools students at no charge for low-income families

Those who qualify for free or reduced price lunches will also get 100Mbps of service

Staff photo by Tim Barber / EPB Fiber Optics employee Ryan Blanks at work.

Students in Hamilton County Schools who receive free or reduced price lunches will soon receive free high-speed internet at no cost to their families.

This initiative, called HCS EdConnect, was announced at a news conference on Wednesday, at a critical juncture when schools are deciding whether to hold in-person or remote learning amid a growing global pandemic.

According to Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, the city is the first in the country to "bridge the digital divide" in education by providing free internet to all students in need. Internet connectivity has been a key issue for educators who don't want technological issues to further achievement gaps for disadvantaged students.

"In 2020, if it wasn't obvious before, it's more aparant than ever: High-speed broadband is a baseline need for American families," Berke told the Times Free Press on Tuesday.