Free wi-fi project could level the playing field for students

By Nick McCrea, Bangor Daily News
June 27th, 2016

wireless internet

Bangor’s plans could outline best practices for wireless initiatives in other cities

In Maine, Bangor’s plan to install free wireless internet in one of the city’s poorest areas could help impoverished students keep pace with their peers from higher-income families, Capehart officials and parents believe.

Amanda Bushwood, a Capehart resident with two daughters attending Downeast School in the neighborhood, said she doesn’t have internet access at home and is concerned about what that might mean for her daughters in the future.

“I can’t afford it,” she said during a lunch for local kids at the Bangor Housing Authority community center.

The same goes for many of her neighbors, who find it difficult to come up with the extra $50 each month needed to get internet in their apartments, she said.

Her daughters, ages 8 and 4, don’t yet have school-issued laptops or tablets, but they will be able to bring them home in a few years. Not having internet at home would put her girls at a disadvantage, Bushwood said.

Bobbie Smith, another Capehart resident, has a sixth- and seventh-grader in the Bangor school system. Both her kids have laptops provided by the school, and more of their work is becoming centered online, she said.

“I have [internet] strictly because they had to have it for school,” she said.

The network could be accessed by any students in the Bangor school system who live in Capehart and have a school-issued device to access the network, according to Bangor Superintendent Betsy Webb.

That restriction would allow school officials to better monitor the use of the network, she said. Students in grades six through 12 are allowed to take home laptops provided by the school department, and Chromebooks are now being distributed to students in grades three through five.

Next page: Funding for the project