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Phoenix Digital Divide Solution, 'PHX DECC' Connects 250K Families

Paul Ross Interviewed by Spencer Blake

Phoenix College (PC) is excited to announce a partnership with the Phoenix Digital Education Connection Canopy (PHX DECC) to help close the digital divide in Central Phoenix.

PC is working in tandem with the City of Phoenix, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and the Phoenix Union School District to deploy a digital solution to help students and families in the greater Phoenix area with their education and work needs. The Phoenix Digital Education Connection Canopy is a replicable network connecting students to schoolwork and virtual classrooms.

Phoenix councilwoman, Laura Pastor, had a lead role in bringing together the consortium to engineer and deploy the PHX DECC. In her unique position as a city councilwoman in America’s fifth-largest city and employed as the community liaison for Phoenix Community College, Pastor is also an elected member of the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board. She leveraged her connections pushing forward a digital divide solution.

“It’s the silver lining from the pandemic cloud,” said Laura Pastor, Phoenix city councilwoman, whose district includes many of the city’s digitally underserved neighborhoods. “Children will no longer need to sit in library parking lots or coffee shops to access high-speed broadband to do their homework.”

“Paul Ross and I were called into (then Phoenix College President Larry Johnson Jr.’s) office. He gave us a simple charge,” said Pastor. “He said, ‘Solve the digital divide.’” Ross, Phoenix College Associate Vice President and CIO, came up with the idea of using existing technology and applications to create a digital canopy over a school district connecting students to virtual classrooms, homework assignments and schools’ digital resources over an accessible, no-cost, wireless high-speed intranet.

“I first had the idea in 2016 in Ohio, again in 2017 in Washington, and I couldn’t get any traction on the idea of solving the digital divide with existing technology,” said Ross. “With the coming of the pandemic, this was no longer just something occurring in pockets; the ability to connect was affecting everyone, everywhere.”

The COVID-19 health emergency closed schools, libraries and community centers, sending students to learn from home. Realizing that more than 250,000 families did not have access or adequate internet speeds to go to school or complete assignments, city and education officials clamored for a digital divide solution.

To read the City of Phoenix press release, visit https://www.phoenix.gov/newsroom/ced/2037

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