New initiative provides free Wi-Fi access for southeast Michigan students

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News
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Just weeks after Michigan high schools and Detroit Public Schools Community District moved to completely virtual classes, a nonprofit is closing the digital divide by providing free Wi-Fi access to more than 50 communities across southeast Michigan. 

Merit Network, a research and education network owned by Michigan's public universities, started an initiative called Michigan Moonshot to ensure that students in Detroit, Inkster, Flint and Washtenaw County have reliable Wi-Fi for virtual learning. 

"For thousands of students across the state of Michigan, the pandemic has introduced new challenges or highlighted existing ones. We expect this to help both rural and urban communities access the internet for basic informational needs tied to living, learning and working," said Charlotte Bewersdorff, Merit Network’s vice president for Community Engagement, in a news release.

Funded by Toyota USA Foundation and Cisco, Michigan Moonshot will work with community organizations and businesses to make their existing Wi-Fi services accessible beyond their walls. 

Students in Detroit can access free Wi-Fi by going to any of nine Detroit Public Library locations during normal business hours. 

Washtenaw Intermediate School District will coordinate 30 locations in the county for students to connect to internet. 

"It is our responsibility as business leaders to step up and mobilize the tools and innovations at our disposal to help curtail the growing disparities in our communities caused by the digital divide," said Nick Michaelides, senior vice president, U.S. Public Sector at Cisco, in a news release.

Students and families can view an interactive map to find Wi-Fi locations and hours. 

The internet access at community sites will be powered and secured by Cisco’s next-generation Wi-Fi and cloud security technology. 

Along with Washtenaw County, where Toyota has its North American research and development headquarters, the Toyota USA Foundation gives grants to help digital divides in 13 different states. 

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