KC Digital Drive (KCDD) central to community efforts to help students, families, and educators access broadband internet service

KANSAS CITY—September 2, 2023 — On Tuesday, Sept. 5, local nonprofit KC Digital Drive will host U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on the first day of their “Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar” at a series of afternoon events scheduled at the Johnson County Central Resource Library in Overland Park, KS.

This week-long, multi-state road trip will showcase the many ways schools, families, and communities are doubling down on accelerating student learning and raising the bar in education.  The “Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar” will feature stops in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Secretary Cardona is kicking off the tour in Kansas where he will focus on pressing issues in education including online connectivity, in addition to growing teacher diversity, access to higher education, and family engagement.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday he will join KC Digital Drive at the Library, where he will be joined by Chairwoman Rosenworcel to share the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts around Online for All and learn how community programs are promoting the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to families in need. The Affordable Connectivity Program offers the opportunity for free or reduced-rate at-home internet service for eligible families.

This will be followed by a roundtable discussion led by Secretary Cardona, which will include Aaron Deacon, Managing Director of KC Digital Drive; superintendents from area schools, including the Shawnee Mission, Olathe, and Blue Valley school districts; representatives from area telecom providers; and representatives from the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation and the AARP.

The day will end with Secretary Cardona and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5) in Kansas City, Missouri, where they will speak to parents about the importance of parent engagement and bringing their voices to the table in schools.  

“While internet has become as important as other utilities, on average, only about 27% of eligible households in the state of Kansas are taking advantage of this affordability program. We’re excited to work with community partners to make sure more people know about the ACP so they can stay connected at home,” said Aaron Deacon, Managing Director of KC Digital Drive.  “Access to the internet is vital for full participation in today’s world, offering the opportunity for remote work, telehealth, online education, informational resources, and so much more.”

“It is an honor to welcome Secretary Cardona, Chairwoman Rosenworcel, and our partners at KC Digital Drive to our building,” said Tricia Suellentrop, County Librarian. “Providing access to ideas, information, experiences and materials to all in our community is central to Johnson County Library’s mission, so we are thrilled to provide space to discuss this important initiative.”

“The internet is used to access crucial resources such as employment opportunities, business software capabilities, virtual learning, and healthcare,” according to Congresswoman Sharice Davids (KS-3). “However, far too many Kansans either can’t afford it or live in communities where it doesn’t reach. The Affordable Connectivity Program will help close the digital gap and keep our communities connected – particularly those who have not had access to high-speed internet in the past. I am proud to have supported federal legislation to lower costs for Kansans, including on high-speed internet.”

The ACP benefit program is designed to help ensure that households can afford the broadband access they need for work, school, healthcare, and more.  Metro area residents can sign up directly on the getacptoday.org website.

Households qualify for the ACP program if their income is below 200% of the federal poverty line or if anyone in the household is enrolled in SNAP, Medicaid, WIC, Veterans and Survivors Benefit, Free and Reduced-Priced School Lunch, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance, and other programs listed here:  https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/do-i-qualify/#other-programs  

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KC Digital Drive (www.kcdigitaldrive.org) is the regional civic organization that supports the ecosystems for broadband, connectivity and digital equity, and emerging tech innovation, and helps to steward the region’s digital transformation. The organization was founded by the cities of Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas based on recommendations from the 2012 bi-state Mayor’s Innovation Team commissioned to consider how best to mobilize diverse community partners around collective action in digital inclusion and digital innovation.

See coverage of this initiative here:

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