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Friday, August 14, 2020

Internet For All Petition

After COVID-19 forced Rochester public schools to cancel in-person classes, thousands of students have been unable to continue their learning online. Spectrum promised low-income households two free months of its discounted “Internet Essentials” package, but many have been left unconnected due to restrictions and requirements placed on this offer. This digital divide is especially felt by Black students, nearly half of whom lack internet connectivity at home. After July 1st, our most vulnerable Rochestarians will be expected to pay for the Internet Essentials package, which is slower than 89% of connections nation-wide. Even as Black and low-income students struggle to even log on to class, Spectrum has yet to open existing higher-speed networks for free to those in need.

This callous stance appears even worse given the years of support Spectrum has received from Rochester taxpayers. Spectrum has received billions in assistance from a 20% property tax cut, city tax allowances since 2007, as well as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In 2019, such corporate welfare enabled Spectrum to post a profit totaling $16.9 billion, 5.0% higher than in 2018, and CEO Thomas Rutledge made $8.16 million in salary and incentives in 2018, a 5% rise over his 2017 total compensation.

Despite calling Rochester its home and receiving billions in support from its neighbors, Spectrum has failed to support our most vulnerable students in this unprecedented time by refusing to provide students with the assistance they need. Though Spectrum has pledged to take action against digital disparities, the urgency of this pandemic calls for current efforts to be directed toward what is most needed—access to reliable, high quality internet.

To meet the needs of our most vulnerable students, we are petitioning Spectrum to:

1) Offer the Internet Essentials program for free to all low-income Rochester homes with students now throughout the end of the 2020-2021 school year

2) Increase the upload speed of Internet Essentials from 3 Mbps to 25 Mbps and the download speed from 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps

References and further reading:

1) Auxier, Brooke, and Monica Anderson. “As Schools Close Due to the Coronavirus, Some U.S. Students Face a Digital 'Homework Gap'.” Pew Research Center, 16 Mar. 2020, URL (petition banner image)

2) Nasr, Amir. “The Perilous Future of Internet Access for Students of Color.” New America, 12 July 2018, URL

3) Paul Ericson. "Why Digital Disparity Persists" Rochester Beacon, 31 January 2019, URL

4) Paul Ericson. "The cost of digital disparity in a pandemic" Rochester Beacon, 15 April 2020, URL

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C. T. said...

It should be for everyone in the country not just Rochester NY. Rural Monroe County has far to little internet coverage.

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