Kansas City digital inclusion nonprofit Connecting for Good has just launched a program that will make it even easier for families across the digital divide to get online.

Through partnerships with two national digital inclusion nonprofits, Connecting for Good has begun to provide low-cost mobile hotspots, USB modems and wifi-enabled modems for families to take home. All come with unlimited 4G data plans through the CLEAR network.

Complementing Connecting for Good’s other primary services, the connected devices program creates a full-spectrum approach to closing the digital divide.

Students who take Connecting for Good’s digital literacy classes and purchase a refurbished PC are now able to take home an Internet connection for a one-time fee and low monthly subscription rate.

According to president Michael Liimatta, Connecting for Good is the first nonprofit in the nation to offer this service model.

“What makes this a first-in-the-nation service is that we stock the devices, so people who take our classes can take them home the same day as they take home their $75 refurbished PCs,” Liimatta says.  “We sign them up and they own the devices.  And we collect cash for low income people who are unbanked.”

CFG will sell the devices for a one-time $45 charge, after which they belong to the buyer. They come with unlimited 4G data plans for $10 a month, no data limit, no contract and no credit check required. The hotspots provide speeds of 5 to 8 Mbps and can be paired with any wifi enabled computer, laptop or mobile device such as a smartphone. The USB modems and desktop modems available in the program do not need wifi-enabled devices to work, making them the perfect match for a refurbished PC..

For payment, customers can use their own bank card or credit card, or, if they do not have a bank account, they can pay cash directly to CFG. This pay-per-use model is crucial, as many families across the digital divide are unbanked and do not have the ability to sign up for subscription-based services online

Another advantage is the freedom factor 4G data affords.

“This is your Internet on the go,” Liimatta says. “With 70% of Kansas City Public Schools students lacking an internet connection and 40% of them moving each year, low-cost home packages through ISPs aren’t that helpful.”

Launched last month, the program is made possible by a partnership with two national nonprofits also fighting the digital divide: Everyoneon.org, which provides the data subscription plan, works with ISPs and refurbishers to place affordable computers and Internet connections in homes. MobileBeacon, which provides the devices, offers affordable connections and 4G devices to families and institutions, such as public libraries. To access these companies’ services alone, users need either a bank account (Everyoneon.org), or they need to be affiliated with another institution such as a library (Mobile Beacon).

Liimatta believes that if all goes well, the pay-per-use model will not only take off in Kansas City, but prove a mobile wrecking ball for collapsing the digital divide elsewhere, too.

“What pay-as-you-go cellphones did for communication, this will do for the Internet,” Liimatta says.

To find out more and get involved, visit connectingforgood.org.

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