Worcester Officials, Parents and Students Call on Spectrum to Provide Internet for Homes Without Access

About a fifth of Worcester's students did not have direct access to the internet when schools moved to remote learning this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic

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Officials in Worcester, Massachusetts, are at odds with Spectrum over internet access for students during the pandemic.

A digital divide in Worcester Public Schools left about 5,000 of the district's 25,000 students without direct access to remote learning in the spring.

"We couldn't have our students not having access to be able to get on to use the Chromebooks that we were distributing," said Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda.

"They have to do something about internet for us, because kids depend on that," said Worcester parent Alexia Asamoah.

"I feel like Spectrum should get going in helping kids, because there are kids out there that don't have internet," added North High School junior Ashley Brito.

The superintendent says she and city leaders had hoped to work with its sole internet provider, Spectrum, to purchase lower-tier, lower-cost internet service for the 3,000-plus households that don't have access.

But Binienda says despite similar deals for school districts in other parts of the state, Spectrum refused.

"We decided to write a letter to say that, 'Look, this can't be acceptable, we really need you to come and help us, this is your community,'" said Binienda.

City Councilor Sarai Rivera sits on the committee that oversees Worcester's exclusive license with Spectrum.

"It is an embarrassment, the fact that they're the ones that have had, you know, the contract, and that we worked with them," Rivera said. "We're in the middle of a pandemic."

Binienda says for the summer, they've purchased Verizon hotspots, and in response to their letter, Spectrum has assigned someone to handle the district's account, so she's hopeful for a resolution.

"We're going to make sure that you're going to have internet access for when school begins," Binienda said.

"We are having ongoing discussions with city leadership about the broadband options we can provide for Worcester residents," Spectrum's parent company, Charter Communications, said in a statement.

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