PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Nov. 9, 2020) — In a historic collaborative effort, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Keystone Initiative for Network-based Research (KINBER) have partnered together to provide free, high-speed Internet access primarily to school-age children as the COVID-19 pandemic forces the integration of remote instruction.
“To live and work in today’s digital society, it is essential to have access to the Internet. Reliable Internet access is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity and a right. Unfortunately, many people in our own City of Pittsburgh cannot afford the Internet services they need. Every1online is a one way to begin to see Internet access as a human right,” said Adam Longwill, Executive Director of Meta Mesh Wireless Communities.
Designed to create more equitable access to the internet, Every1online will provide WiFi at no cost to eligible households during a 12-month pilot program in the Coraopolis, Homewood and New Kensington areas—with the goal of expanding the program to additional communities in Western Pennsylvania beyond the first year. As the first non-profit wireless Internet model in the country, the project seeks to shrink the Digital Divide by prioritizing Pittsburghers in-need.
“This kind of inter-organizational collaboration, where large institutions and community organizations come together to solve complex, pressing challenges together, is essential for developing meaningful, impactful solutions. We are so thrilled to be a part of this collaborative and to have this chance to make real change in our city” said Maggie Hannan, Associate Director of CMU’s Simon Initiative.
Pitt’s Vice Chancellor and CIO Mark Henderson added “This partnership will no doubt have a meaningful impact on bridging the digital divide in communities that are literally within view of the iconic Cathedral of Learning. We’re grateful for the opportunity to contribute to improving educational outcomes in these school districts, and the resulting long-term benefits for the region.”
The Every1online plan is to build a Community Wireless Network that provides high-speed broadband Internet, which is optimal for simultaneous video conferences. While the pilot program seeks to prioritize households with students, any household within the service area can sign-up to receive in-home equipment and connect to the network. Visit https://www.metamesh.org/projects/ for more details and registration, which is available today through Jan. 31, 2021.
“So many of our students live in poverty, or other circumstances that prevent them from having access to high-speed Internet, which is what they need to learn remotely. This collaboration is really making the statement that these kids deserve equitable Internet access,” said Kris Hupp, the Cornell School District’s director of Technology and Instructional Innovation. “My hope is that, through Every1online, I will have a solution for our families–just like breakfast and school lunches, if we have a hungry kid, we’ll feed them. And if we have a kid who needs Internet, we can provide Every1online.”
With generous support from the Hopper Dean Foundation, the RK Mellon Foundation, the Bernita Buncher Educational Advancement Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Burrell-New Kensington Rotary Club, Every1online is made possible by:
- Meta Mesh Wireless Communities (MMWC): MMWC is a nonprofit organization that is the primary Networking Solutions Consolidator responsible for Network Design, Equipment Installer, and maintenance for the project.
- Carnegie Mellon University (CMU): A team of collaborators from CMU’s School of Computer Science and the Simon Initiative have coordinated the project connections to CMU and Pitt, provided critical start-up funding for the project and liaise with key stakeholders and community groups. They offer ongoing project design, implementation, and fundraising support.”COVID-19 did not create the digital divide, but it is highlighting existing inequities in the education system. We’re trying to come up with solutions that aren’t band-aids. Because what happens after that? We’re attempting to create a solution that doesn’t go away – that sustainably alleviates a systemic problem,” said Ashley Williams Patton, Director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Pathways program.
- University of Pittsburgh (Pitt): Pitt IT and the Chief Information Officer along with Community & Governmental Relations are key stakeholders and integral collaborators. The University is contributing facility access and funding to enable use of the Cathedral of Learning as the “Super Node/hub.” With its extensive community engagement efforts, including centers in Homewood and the Hill District, Pitt also will support stakeholder and community involvement in additional neighborhoods following the pilot.
- The Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER): KINBER is Pennsylvania’s statewide research, education, and community network organization and network provider to both CMU and Pitt and will provide a “gateway” to the Internet through KINBER’s PennREN Fiber to be broadcasted from the Cathedral of Learning via MetaMesh.“KINBER is pleased to be supporting this innovative collaborative partnership between our higher education members, local technology partners, and local school districts to provide essential broadband capabilities for students and residents in need in some of western Pennsylvania’s unserved and underserved areas,” said Nathan Flood, KINBER CEO.
- Participating School Districts and Community Groups: The New Kensington-Arnold and Cornell (Coraopolis) school districts, as well as the Homewood Children’s Village, are collaborators. Penn State New Kensington also contributes to the project’s progress in the New Kensington area. These local community parnters bring vital expertise, leading the effort to build community buy-in, leveraging social capital to facilitate the creation of WISP infrastructure, and identifying households in need of Internet connectivity. They also advise CMU, Pitt, and Meta Mesh partners on community need and intentional partnership practices.“The Cities of Arnold and New Kensington have faced significant struggles with the loss of its primary industry, but there is a great deal of hope and potential to be found within the community. I see the Every1online initiative as a sustainable piece of a broader community system that provides it members opportunities to become productive contributors to ongoing growth and success.”-Jon Banko, Acting Superintendent of New Kensington-Arnold School District“The Pandemic has really highlighted that Internet is really not a luxury, it is a basic necessity. Every1online will change so much in our community… it’s a chance for greater equity. It takes collaboration for these things to come together, none of us can do it all on our own. Knowing that there’s different partners coming together gives a greater sense of stability and security—it helps to anchor these initiatives and ensure that partners bring their core strengths to the table.”–Walter Lewis, President & CEO of Homewood Children’s Village.“Penn State New Kensington has been privileged to work closely with Meta Mesh Wireless Communities, the University of Pittsburgh, CMU, and KINBER to implement this project in the local area. Along with the ongoing revitalization efforts, this particular project will help ensure connectivity for the community and continue strengthening access and future-ready skill sets of students and others. As a parent of children in the New Kensington-Arnold School District, I witnessed first-hand the impact pandemic-related school closures had on my daughters’ peers and other students who lacked access to reliable digital resources. Every1online will empower all students within our district and help provide a strong pathway to more equitable educational opportunities.”- Alyssa Pistininzi, Penn State New Kensington Education Strategy & Planning Manager
About the Partners:
Meta Mesh Wireless Communities
Meta Mesh Wireless Communities (established in 2015) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Internet Service Provider attacking the Digital Divide in the Greater Pittsburgh areas by helping those who cannot afford or depend on their existing Internet Services. To do this, MMWC raises grant funds and works with community groups, universities, and school districts to cover the cost of services. This way, MMWC can get broadband Internet to Pittsburghers who need it, without burdening them with a monthly bill. Then, it builds networking infrastructure and installs equipment to get users access to the Internet. This approach has never been done before on a city-wide scale in the US! In addition to its In-Home WiFi Program, MMWC also offers Mobile WiFi and Public WiFi services. For more information, visit https://www.metamesh.org/ and follow @MetaMeshWC on Twitter.
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon (cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 14,500 students in the university’s seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.
University of Pittsburgh
Founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh is an internationally renowned leader in health sciences learning and research. A top-10 recipient of NIH funding since 1998, Pitt repeatedly ranks as the best public university in the Northeast, per The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education. Pitt consists of a campus in Pittsburgh—home to 16 undergraduate, graduate and professional schools—and four regional campuses located throughout Western Pennsylvania. Pitt offers nearly 500 distinct degree programs, serves more than 33,000 students, employs more than 14,000 faculty and staff, and awards 9,000 degrees systemwide.
The Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research
The Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) is Pennsylvania’s statewide research, education and community network. The non-profit membership organization is comprised of education, healthcare, economic development, libraries, public media, government and other non-profit organizations devoted to fostering collaboration through technology. Established in 2010 through a $99.6 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, KINBER provides network connectivity and services to more than 130 organizations in Pennsylvania. KINBER is committed to delivering equitable, reliable and affordable digital infrastructure and tools to inspire tomorrow’s scientific discoveries, enable the exchange of ideas and culture among diverse populations, educate the next generation of citizens and revitalize Pennsylvania’s economy. For more information, visit KINBER.org and follow @KINBER on Twitter.
Cornell School District
Cornell School District is a small public school district that serves the communities of Coraopolis and Neville Island, just ten miles west of downtown Pittsburgh. The district is a US Department of Agriculture Community Eligibility School which qualifies all students for a free breakfast, lunch, and dinner if they stay after school. The elementary school is a US Department of Education Blue Ribbon School and the district was selected by The Pittsburgh Business Times as the #1 overachieving school district in the commonwealth in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
New Kensington-Arnold School District
The New Kensington-Arnold School District was founded in 1965 with the merging of Arnold School District and New Kensington School District. Our district comprises 3.5 square miles in northwestern Westmoreland County. It is bound by the Allegheny River on the west and north, and the communities of Plum and Lower Burrell to the east and south respectively. The communities of Arnold and New Kensington were first established in the late 1800s and have since gone through substantial growth and change with regard to population, business, and industry.
Homewood Children’s Village
The mission of the Homewood Children’s Village (HCV) is to improve the lives of Homewood’s children and to simultaneously reweave the fabric of the community in which they live. HCV realizes this mission through a child-centered collaborative model designed to provide support from cradle to career. HCV and its partners offer academic, social, and health programming to children, families, schools, and the community. HCV also leads the community schools’ efforts in Homewood, providing resource coordination and support at PPS Lincoln PreK-5, PPS Faison K-5, and PPS Westinghouse 6-12.
Penn State New Kensington
Penn State New Kensington is one of twenty-four campuses that comprise The Pennsylvania State University. Located just seventeen miles from the city of Pittsburgh, the campus is nestled on 72 wooded acres of Upper Burrell, Pennsylvania, and is easily accessible from almost anywhere in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Indiana and Westmoreland Counties. Penn State New Kensington offers ten baccalaureate and five associate degrees, as well as the first two years of almost all of Penn State’s 275+ majors through the University’s 2+2 plan. The campus continues to fulfill the University’s land grant mission through its ongoing efforts in the city of New Kensington to drive economic development, revitalization and to prepare the Rust Belt region for the next industrial revolution. newkensington.psu.edu