Hamilton County Schools, EPB partnership provides free internet access to one-third of district students

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Hixson high school JROTC instructor Tony Monnat wipes down a laptop as ISS monitor Cel Reid stands behind him during a back to school Chromebook pick up on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Hixson, Tenn.

About a third of Hamilton County Schools students have so far benefited from a program designed to provide them with free broadband internet.

A fast internet connection became a necessity as teachers worked to keep students learning after schools shut down in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country. Those who had no internet were in immediate danger of falling behind in their studies.

EdConnect, a partnership between Hamilton County Schools and EPB, includes installation of EPB service with speeds of at least 100 Megabits-per-second in the homes of eligible students. Eligibility for the program requires students to be on free or reduced lunch or whose families receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Launched less than a year ago, as the coronavirus pandemic was shutting down schools across the country, EdConnect has enrolled 14,000 students, as well as their family members, totaling 25,000 people in all.