ORLANDO, Fla. - The City of Orlando is working to bridge the digital divide and get internet access to people who do not have it.
Under a one-year pilot program, people can check-out a Wi-Fi hotspot or tablet for free from five neighborhood centers. Nearly 50 digital devices are spread across the city at the following neighborhood centers:
- Engelwood Neighborhood Center
- Rosemont Neighborhood Center
- Reeves Terrace Neighborhood Center
- John H. Jackson Neighborhood Center
- Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center
Mike Hess, director of "Future Ready" for the City of Orlando, said this could be helpful for someone who is not able to afford internet right now or who needs to do online learning.
"This could be extremely beneficial, could even be a lifeline to someone who lost their job and needs to find a job," he said.
Hess said about 20 percent of Orlando homes do not have internet access but with everything going virtual because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the city wanted to help people connect. "People that just do not have internet and they haven’t been able to connect with family and that takes a toll on their mental health."
The tablets and hotspots can be checked out for two weeks at a time on a first come, first served basis. People must wait one week between rentals, show proof of Orlando residency and identification showing they are at least 18 years old.
Hess said the program could be extended if it becomes popular.The pilot program is also helping the city advance its Future-Ready City Master Plan, to explore strategies to get residents better internet connectivity and bridge the digital divide in the Orlando community.
"As a future-ready city, Orlando is creating a thriving and more resilient city by using innovation and technology to create a community where everyone feels equally valued, equally protected and has equitable access to opportunity," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "This pilot program is another innovative way to help better serve our residents and provide them access to more resources."
For more information about this pilot program, visit the City of Orlando's website.