Non-Profit Offers Broadband to Low Income Students

By Briana Vannozzi

Students say they cringe when given homework involving the internet. That’s because more than 50 percent of families at Lincoln High School in Jersey City don’t have connectivity in their homes.

“People take for granted that families have it and they really don’t and so this program is gonna make sure we’re fulfilling that,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

JerseyOn, a new statewide non-profit, is helping students in low income areas get hooked up. For a $40 flat fee they get a lifetime of one gigabyte of broadband per month.

“Before I would have to take textbooks home or come in early or stay late after school or come in during my lunchtime. So it’ll be a lot easier and more convenient,” said Lincoln High School Sophomore Tiara Green.

“It’s simple. If you can’t afford the book — or if you can’t afford in today’s world the internet — then you can’t get the information, you can’t fully learn and expand your horizons and you can’t compete with the rest of your classmates who may be fortunate enough to have that very same access,” said Sen. Robert Menendez.

The founders of JerseyOn say they recognized a growing need and wanted to level the playing field.

“If you get connected the stats are incredible. You have a 7 percent higher chance of graduating high school, according to the Federal Reserve,” said JerseyOn Chairman Josh Gottheimer.

Especially here in New Jersey. According to new data from the census report, New Jersey’s poverty rates increased in 2013 to 11.4 percent. The survey showed Cumberland County had the highest in the state with 20.6 percent followed by Hudson at 19.7 percent.

Students are eligible if their families meet the requirements for the free or reduced price lunch program. The initiative is being rolled out here in Jersey City but there’s already plans to take it statewide.

“We sent a letter a couple weeks ago to every superintendent across the state and we’ve heard from dozens already calling and saying when can we bring it here?” Gottheimer said.

The non-profit is partnering with local internet providers to make it happen. They’ll also provide refurbished computers, around 2 years old, for $200. That one gigabyte will get you 102 hours of webpage viewing, 465 minutes of video streaming, almost 50,000 emails sent and received and about 13 hours of Skype time.

“That’s giving them the preparation and skills they need to prepare for college or to enter into the workforce,” said Lincoln High School Social Studies teacher Ticcoya Minnicks.

It’s estimated some 800,000 New Jersey students will be eligible to take part in the program.