Cisco: expands WiFi in Michigan addressing digital divide

By Georgia Wilson
Cisco expands the access to WiFi in Michigan to address the digital divide...

In an announcement made by Cisco, the company reports that - as part of Merit Network’s Michigan Moonshot initiative - the technology company alongside automotive company Toyota, are set to expand the access to free WiFi in over 50 community locations across Michigan. Others contributing to the expansion include in-kind contributions from Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Merit Network.

Reports from the US Census Bureau have identified that Detroit Public Schools have the highest number of households in Michigan that do not have access to the internet (82,894). Second highest was the Flint School District with 14,221 households without internet access. 

In addition to these figures, the report also identified that 57% of K-12 students in Washtenaw County do not have access to high speed WiFi.

“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.

The project in Michigan, is expected to provide community organisations with the technology to extend the existing internet connectivity via WiFi networks that are accessible outside of the building. For example Detroit Public library will be extending their WiFi network at nine sites during normal business hours, while Washtenaw Intermediate School District will be coordinating 30 access points at schools and community partners in Michigan.

At the community sites, internet access is powered and secured by Cisco’s WiFI and cloud security technology, with the overall efforts supported through its Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout our nation, Toyota is proud to partner with Michigan Moonshot and Cisco to expand free Wi-Fi to Southeast Michigan area schools, libraries and community gathering locations to provide an immediate solution to this urgent issue of access,” said Chris Reynolds, chief administrative officer, Toyota Motor North America.

Toyota USA Foundation has also provided grants in 13 states to help address the digital divide across the entire nation.

“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. “We are proud to launch this initiative alongside Merit and Toyota to help ensure equity of access, and to power an inclusive future for all Michiganders.”

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