Our Commitment to Connectivity

MARCH 31, 2014

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The Digital Divide is very real in Kansas City.  We believe tackling it is one of the most important social justice issues of our day.

  • 25% of Kansas City area residents don’t have broadband Internet access at home. (3-5 Mb)
  • 42% of those who don’t use the Internet have annual household incomes of under $25,000, most of whom live in low income housing.
  • 46% of nonusers are minorities. *
  • Less than half of households in Kansas City KS have a computer and Internet connection.
  • 70% of Kansas City Public Schools students do not have the Internet in their homes. 

At Connecting for Good, our core belief is that connectivity equals opportunity. Access to the Internet brings with it a chance to apply for jobs online, connections with family and friends, access to virtual library shelves, information about medical and health issues, online education – GED completion and college courses – and a whole lot more.  These are resources with the potential to help an under resourced family move toward a healthier, happier and more secure future.

To make the Internet more accessible, especially for those who live in Kansas City’s under resourced inner city neighborhoods, we have developed a multifaceted approach to making affordable connectivity available. The neighborhoods we’re focusing on are in NE Wyandotte County in Kansas and East of Troost Avenue in Kansas City MO.

Affordable Internet Through Wireless Networks

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We are uniting with other nonprofit organizations, schools, government entities and neighborhood associations to increase Internet access to underserved inner city communities. As a wireless ISP, Connecting for Good is building a network of inter-connected microwave towers.

Most recently, we were engaged by the Urban Neighborhood Initiative to do an engineering and feasibility for the Troost Corridor.  UNI is one of the Big 5 initiatives of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.  We have also been involved with similar studies with a school and another community group.  Our goal is to create a strategy for engaging additional partners to work with us to build community owned and operated wireless networks.

Neighborhood-wide Wi-Fi Deployments

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The wireless backbone has created an opportunity to “light up” entire neighborhoods with Wi-Fi mesh networks that will bring extremely affordable connectivity to individual homes, businesses and nonprofit organizations. We are currently working with neighborhood associations, property owners, residents and other community groups who are interested in building such locally owned and operated Internet co-ops. (Juniper Gardens project is shown above)

Multi-family Properties

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One of the groups with the lowest rates of in-home Internet access is families who live in public housing and Section 8 multi-unit properties.  We have already built Wi-Fi networks in three of these facilities that provide free Internet to over 500 low income households.  We are in working toward developing similar projects at additional properties throughout the Kansas City Metro area. (Rosedale Ridge project shown above)

Public Access Computer Centers

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Until everyone has Internet access in their own homes, we must provide public places where people can connect to the Internet. Connecting for Good is partnering with community groups to create more public access computer centers.  As a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher, we create high quality inexpensive computers by collecting used PCs, wiping their data and installing new operating systems and other software.  Using this recycled equipment, we are setting up public spaces where residents can access the Internet and all the resources it offers.  Through our free digital life skills classes, we are helping many who have never used a computer to become productive first-time Internet users. (NE Wyandotte Co. Tech Centercomputer lab is shown above)

Free Wi-Fi in Public Spaces

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Working with community partners we are also creating hotspots in strategic locations in the inner city such as bus stops and other well-trafficked public places.  The goal is very simple to bring the Internet to people where they are.  (31 & Troost hotspot shown above)

If you are interested in supporting our efforts or wish to learn more about engaging us for a project in your neighborhood or facility, please use our contact form.

For more information about our efforts, watch CFG President, Michael Liimatta’s presentation to the Kansas City MO City Council ( 10/31/13).

 

[UPDATE: In November 2014, Connecting for Good also begain offering a 4G wireless Internet service for $10 a month. No data cap, no credit check, no long-term contract.]

 

* Google Fiber’s study Kansas City’s Digital Divide released on June 22, 2012.

 

Written by Tom Esselman

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