City leaders in McAllen, Texas wanted to close the digital divide for years and the coronavirus pandemic provided the impetus and funding to make citywide Wi-Fi a reality. Early in the pandemic, the digital divide was on full display as families gathered at fast food restaurants so children could use the businesses’ Wi-Fi for free. Last June, the McAllen City Commission approved using $3.1 million in federal COVID stimulus funding to install 1,000 Wi-Fi access points on neighborhood light poles so students no longer needed to leave home to get online. They strategically targeted the lowest income areas with the highest number of school-aged children for the access points to have the most impact. The improved digital access not only benefits students, but also their families who can access online government and health services, remote work opportunities, and develop their digital skills.

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