In the city of Hartford, less than
one-third of households have a working computer and Internet access
at home. This means thousands of Hartford families do not have the
ready access to information on jobs, services and education that
the vast majority of Connecticut residents take for granted.
The Internet has so fully revolutionized
our society that even basic functions such as registering children
for classes or applying for entry-level jobs with large companies
are virtually impossible without Internet access. Too many Hartford
families are being left behind on the information superhighway.
To help close Hartford's digital divide,
I announced an initiative earlier this year to provide Web access,
computer equipment and training to Hartford families. Our goal is
to build a free wireless network across our city, provide low-cost
computer equipment to our residents, and train them in the basics
of computer and Web usage.
Our effort is unlike those of municipalities
trying to compete with private-sector companies who provide high-speed
Internet access. We are looking to partner with private-sector companies
to expand access to the two-thirds of Hartford families that are
not being served by the private market.
Hartford has an existing fiber-optic
network that branches into virtually every neighborhood in the city,
linking our schools, firehouses and government buildings. This network
can be adapted to serve as a backbone for a wireless network that
will provide our all residents with basic high-speed Internet access.
Our existing technology infrastructure
makes us an attractive partner to private-sector firms looking to
serve more residents of urban communities in previously untapped
markets. Our partnership will bring together the innovation and
flexibility of the private sector with the commitment of the public
sector to serve all our citizens.
Our goal is to have the Blue Hills
and downtown neighborhoods go "live" with our private-sector
partners by this summer. We would roll the program out to our other
residential neighborhoods over the next two years.
This access will open doors to residents
that up until now were, for all purposes, closed. Whether searching
for jobs, registering for classes, reviewing health care information
or learning more about government, our Internet access initiative
has the potential to change the lives of residents for the better.
Eddie A. Perez is mayor of Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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