Sepulveda left and Stu Reid on WHCR FM 230~100,000 kids in Chicago don't have decent Internet for remote learning, a horror of the Digital Divide. Chicago Connected, working with Comcast and RCN, looks to connect all of them for free for the next 4 years. Comcast is offering a reasonable wholesale price, apparently ~$10, somewhat above the marginal cost of delivering the service. ($5-8) Ken Griffin, the Crown family, Illinois Tool Works, and the Pritzkers are supplementing the city funding.

Barack and Michelle Obama donated as well. He says

“Michelle and I want every kid in Chicago to grow up knowing even better opportunities than we had – and that requires full and equitable access to the best tools and resources. We’re happy to help Chicago Connected reach every kid in the city. This is where I found a purpose and a family – and it’ll always be our home.”

The program has some rough edges. Our society still needs to connect people without children. Far too many can't afford U.S. prices, which are among the world's highest.

New York State Senator Luis Sepulveda and I discussed the Chicago program on WHCR-FM's Community and Technology. We don't have anything like this in New York and he was very interested. I urged him to do what is necessary to connect the kids in his South Bronx district.


June 25, 2020

Chicago Launches Groundbreaking Initiative to Bridge Digital Divide, Providing Free High-Speed Internet Access to Over 100,000 Cps Students

Public, Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders Develop $50 Million Program to Provide Free, High-Speed Internet for Four Years

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

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CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today announced the launch of ‘Chicago Connected,’ a groundbreaking program that will provide free high-speed internet service to approximately 100,000 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students in their households. This first-of-its-kind program will be one of the largest and longest-term efforts in the nation to provide free, high-speed internet over the course of four years to dramatically increase internet accessibility for students and help build a permanent public support system for families in Chicago.

“Reliable, high-speed internet is one of the most powerful equalizers when it comes to accessing information,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “It allows families to access digital remote learning and stay connected to family near and far, especially during COVID-19. It allows families to build career skills, apply for jobs, register to vote and stay up-to-date on current events. This program is a critical component of our STEP agenda and the efforts to end poverty and a part of our mission to drive improved academic outcomes at CPS.”

The City worked with CPS and philanthropist Ken Griffin to initiate a first-of-its-kind, scalable solution to address the digital equity gap.  ‘Chicago Connected’ sustainably tackles the persistent access issue through a public-private investment in broadband, with philanthropic partners bridging the program’s initial costs. ‘Chicago Connected’ is estimated to cost approximately $50 million over the next four years, prioritizing families in need on the city’s South and West Sides.

“Internet connectivity is a lifeline to education and opportunity – extending learning beyond the classroom and opening pathways for development and wellbeing,” said Ken Griffin, Founder and CEO of Citadel. “With ongoing access, every student and their family – regardless of economic circumstance – will be better positioned to pursue a brighter future. I hope ‘Chicago Connected’ will inspire other communities across the country to come together to eliminate the digital divide.”

The first two years of ‘Chicago Connected’ will be majority funded by philanthropic partners, including $7.5 million from Ken Griffin, $5 million from Crown Family Philanthropies, $2.5 million from the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund (through The Chicago Community Trust and United Way of Metro Chicago), $2 million from Illinois Tool Works, $1.5 million from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, $500,000 from The JPB Foundation and $250,000 from the Joyce Foundation. An additional joint commitment of $750,000 from President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust to the Children First Fund (CFF), the independent partnership and philanthropy arm for Chicago Public Schools, will support efforts by community-based organizations (CBOs) on the South Side.

“Inequitable access to the Internet is a nationwide issue and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that internet service can no longer be viewed as a luxury,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “To build on our students’ academic progress, we are launching an unprecedented effort to provide stable, high-speed internet access to 100,000 CPS students over the next four years. This ambitious and critical undertaking would not be possible without the generous support of the philanthropic community.”

These generous commitments, along with $5 million of CARES Act funding from the City of Chicago, will fund years one and two of the program. CPS will fund the program in years three and four of the initiative.

Providing Reliable High-Speed Internet Access to Students who Need it Most

According to Census data, an estimated 100,000 students lack access to high-speed internet in Chicago, which is defined as 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload by the Federal Communications Commission. ‘Chicago Connected’ will provide high-speed internet for households for four years by directly paying for internet service for families that are most in need, using six priority indicators and data from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to identify eligible households for the initiative. Priority indicators include students eligible for free lunch, students identified as having special needs, students experiencing homelessness and students living in communities with the highest hardship based on the UIC hardship index. Further, Chicago Connected will prioritize students who are enrolled in summer school who are also eligible for the program.

‘Chicago Connected’ will begin outreach to families next week with the goal of connecting as many of the 100,000 students as possible prior to the 2020-21 school year.  While Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools remain committed to making every possible effort to get students back in the classroom this fall, what next school year looks like and how many students will be able to return is dependent on the trajectory of the virus and guidance from state and local health officials.

“The pandemic has not made the internet indispensable, but has revealed that it always has been,” said Daniel Anello, CEO of Kids First Chicago, a parent advocacy organization that has supported the push for broader access to high-speed internet for families. “Increased internet access will provide a plethora of telehealth, economic and other ancillary benefits, in addition to closing the digital divide which contributes to a significant racial equity gap in our city.”

While phase one of ‘Chicago Connected’ will primarily focus on providing wired internet access, Chicago Connected will also extend existing mobile broadband hotspot service for eligible students in temporary living situations (STLS) for up to four years.

Groundbreaking Initiative Made Possible by Generous Support from the Philanthropic Community

“Michelle and I want every kid in Chicago to grow up knowing even better opportunities than we had – and that requires full and equitable access to the best tools and resources. We’re happy to help Chicago Connected reach every kid in the city. This is where I found a purpose and a family – and it’ll always be our home.” – President Barack Obama

“No student or family should be cut off from opportunities to learn, connect, and thrive—especially at this moment when our devices have become our classrooms, doctors’ offices, and more. Chicago Connected represents a critical step on the path to equity for students city-wide.”– Barbara Goodman Manilow, Crown Family Philanthropies’ Board Chair

“This terrible pandemic has made it crystal clear that access to high speed internet is a critical element of our social safety net. Sadly, too many young Chicagoans and their families lack access to this powerful tool which improves educational, economic, social and health outcomes. The Pritzker Traubert Foundation is proud to support this vital program that will help connect nearly 100,000 of our young people to the many benefits that connectivity and collaboration can deliver.”– Penny Pritzker, Trustee, Pritzker Traubert Foundation and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Critical Partnerships to Support Program Goals

‘Chicago Connected’ will provide connectivity by directly paying for a low-cost, high-speed internet service plan for families through Comcast and RCN. In order to help facilitate the payments and various program components, ‘Chicago Connected’ has enlisted United Way to serve as its fiscal agent to help administer the funds and monitor the program. By having United Way pay ISPs directly means that families will not receive a bill.

“Comcast launched Internet Essentials in 2011, because we understood the importance of digital equity across all of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods and across the nation. Since then, Internet Essentials has helped thousands of Chicagoans cross the digital divide and gain access to the Internet at home, many for the first time,” said Matthew Summy, Comcast’s Regional Vice President of External and Government Affairs. “We’re proud to partner with Mayor Lightfoot, the City, CPS and all the other ‘Chicago Connected’ stakeholders to connect thousands more students and continue to help them succeed in school.”

‘Chicago Connected’ will also enlist the support of various Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to support enrollment in the program, digital literacy and skills development training, and connect families with other critical resources. To support this effort, CFF — which will act as a fiscal agent for the work with CBOs — will launch an RFP process for CBO selection; more information will be available at

“RCN’s mission statement includes the belief that we should take care of our customers and take care of each other. Because of our strong roots in the community, partnering with ‘Chicago Connected’ not only strengthens our commitment to Chicago but allows us to extend our best-in-class internet to those families that are in most need. We are proud to be a part of this innovative program that not only removes obstructions in the learning process for the students, but will enhance the overall well-being of these families,” said Tom McKay, SVP and General Manager, RCN Chicago.

CPS currently provides hotspots through T-Mobile to many of the district’s Students in Temporary Living Situations without a permanent home address. T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon are also helping develop potential solutions in areas where traditional ‘wired’ access is not a viable option. This component of the program will take shape over the coming weeks in parallel with the launch of the wired initiative.

“Broadband is a lifeline for many students from marginalized communities, and lack of access has repercussions that go far beyond the ability to complete homework assignments,” said 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas. “If you have reliable Internet connection, you have opportunity. I thank Mayor Lightfoot for this investment that ensures CPS students can all engage in connected learning, and I look forward to our continued work to enact inclusive connectivity policies that center on communities of color.”

Chicago’s Larger Vision for Digital Equity

The first phase of ‘Chicago Connected’ is centered on digital equity and internet connectedness as a way to lay the foundation for success for students by increasing access to online learning, college applications, training and workforce development, and other critical government services.

“As Chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Education and Child Development, I have been a longtime proponent of improving the lives of all of Chicago’s children,” said 24th Ward Alderman Michael Scott. “Delivering broadband access to our students will have a profound impact on bettering the lives of our youth and their families.”

Expanding access to CPS households who need it the most represents the first phase of a larger effort by the City of Chicago to expand internet access more broadly. The City is evaluating additional ways to improve internet infrastructure investments in communities in need beyond CPS families and is dedicated to further exploring how to broaden ‘Chicago Connected’ to connect more families citywide.

"In 2020, giving young people access to the internet is necessary to provide them access to the classroom,” said 36th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas. “This is an awesome next step, and I feel confident that students, parents and teachers will see the result when school starts in the fall."

For more information, please visit

The world needs a good news source on Internet and telecom policy. I hope to create one. Catch a mistake? Email me please.  Dave Burstein


Professor Noam's "Many Internets"

Until about 2010, everyone agreed the Net was a "network of networks," not a monolithic entity. There was a central authority, ICANN, keeping track of domain names, but that was a minor administrative function.
Columbia Professor Noam suggests we might be better off accepting that some nations or groups might want to organize their networks differently. It's easy to see demand for an Internet with much more effective filters against material some think harmful to children. (Any 10 year old can easily find porn today. Many do.)
Internet translation is getting better very quickly. You might want an "Internet" that translates everything into your language. Google Chrome translation isn't perfect but I was able to research most of this story on Russian language sites. With a few more years progress, I might welcome an alternate that brings me everything in English, including caching for better performance.
De facto, Internet news is already split, as hundreds of millions only get their news from Facebook. Google AMP pages, including for news, also favor selected parts of the net
Centralizing the DNS doesn't prevent censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. There are many Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who want to block what they consider blasphemy and limit free speech. See . More from Noam

Russia Orders Alternate Root Internet System
It's actually practical and not necessarily a problem.The Security Council of the Russian Federation, headed by Vladimir Putin, has ordered the "government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions ... This system would be used by countries of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa." RT
Columbia University Professor Eli Noam and then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé have both said such a system is perfectly practical as long as there is robust interconnection.
Actually, the battle over ICANN and domain names is essentially symbolic. Managing the DNS is a relatively insignificant task, more clerical than governing. ICANN Chair Steve Crocker pointed out they had very little to do with policy.
Some will claim this is about blocking free speech but that's rhetoric. Russia doesn't need to fiddle with the DNS for censorship, as the Chinese have demonstrated. The wonders of the Internet will continue so long as the resulting nets" are robustly connected. The ICANN and U.S. policy goal should be to help create that system for interconnection.
I expect contentions that “The Russians are taking over our Internet” and “They are splitting the Internet.” The Internet is a “Network of Networks.” It is not a monolith so what would “splitting” it mean or do?
After the WCIT, China realized that ICANN and the DNS are side issues not worth bothering about. They have been building alternate institutions including the World Internet Summit in Wuzhan and the BRICs conferences.  The Chinese have put their main work where decisions that matter are made. Wireless standards are set by 3GPP, where nothing can be approved without China's consent.
The American battle at ITU is proving to be a historic mistake.
Why does Russia want an independent Internet?
They fear that Western sanctions on Russia could cripple the Russian Net. Communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, worries about, "a scenario where our esteemed partners would suddenly decide to disconnect us from the internet." I think that's highly unlikely but Nikiforov points out, “Recently, Russia is being addressed in a language of unilateral sanctions: first, our credit cards are being cut off; then the European Parliament says that they’ll disconnect us from SWIFT."
It makes sense for the Russians to be prepared for such a contingency as the Cold War has been warming up on both sides. "Britain's top military chief Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach just made headlines warning Russian subs "could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables." Much more

ICANN Continues Excluding Russia & China From the Board
No wonder Russia wants an alternate root. Three years ago, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé promised "a seat at the table" to Chinese Premier Li. ICANN welched and this year added two more Americans.
Almost all the ICANN board is from the U.S. and close allies; only about 4 of the 18 board members are from countries on the other side of the North/South divide in Internet policy.  Claiming ICANN represents the Global Internet is inappropriate. China is 1/3rd of the Internet but has no representation on the board.
I know many of the board members. They are all basically honorable but generally share a strong opinion on North-South issues.
Larry Strickling of the U.S. government knew just what he was doing with the IANA transition. He handed over to a board with similar positions as the U.S. government.
"The system is unsustainable while it excludes half the world," I have been saying since 2012. More, including the transcript of Fadi's statements,

Sorry, Ajit Pai: Smaller Telcos Did Not Reduce Investment After NN Ruling
Pai justifies his NN choice with the claim, "The impact has been particularly serious for smaller Internet service providers." #wrong (Actually, NN has minimal effects on investment, up or down, I’m convinced. Competition, new technology, customer demand and similar are far more important.)
The two largest suppliers to “smaller ISPs” saw sales go up. Adtran's sales the most recent nine months were $540M, up from $473M the year before. 2016 was $636M, 2015 $600M. Calix the last nine months sold $372M, up from $327M. The full year 2016 was $459M, up from $407M in 2015. Clearfield, a supplier of fiber optic gear, was up 8% in sales in the smaller ISPs.
There is nothing in the data from others that suggests an alternate trend. Anyone could have found this data in a few minutes from the company quarterly reports.
The results in larger companies are ambiguous. I can "prove" capex went up or went down by selecting the right data. The four largest companies' capex - two/thirds of the total - went up from $52.7B in 2015 to $55.7B in 2016. The result remains positive after making sensible adjustments for mergers and acquisitions. That's as close to "proving" that NN led to increased spending as the facts chosen to prove the opposite.
Actually, whether capex went up or down in 2016 tells us almost nothing about the choice on neutrality. Everyone knows a single datapoint could be random or due to other causes. Much more, including the source of the errors

Elders Bearing Witness: Vint, Timbl, & Many More
Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak and more than a dozen true Internet pioneers wrote Congress to protect Neutrality. The best Congress money can buy didn't listen but I wanted to reproduce their letter.
I hope they are wrong believing "is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create." My take is the impact will be moderate in the short run.
From the letter:
We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet, and some of the innovators and business people who, like many others, depend on it for our livelihood. ... The FCC’s proposed Order is based on a flawed and factually inaccurate understanding of Internet technology. These flaws and inaccuracies were documented in detail in a 43-page-long joint comment signed by over 200 of the most prominent Internet pioneers and engineers and submitted to the FCC on July 17, 2017.
Despite this comment, the FCC did not correct its misunderstandings, but instead premised the proposed Order on the very technical flaws the comment explained. The technically-incorrect proposed Order ... More, including the full list,