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New WiFi Hotspot Map Hopes To Aid Texas Digital Divide

The free interactive online mapping tool provides the location and log-in information for more than 500 hotspots across the state provided by Texas libraries, schools, and nonprofits.
The free interactive online mapping tool provides the location and log-in information for more than 500 hotspots across the state provided by Texas libraries, schools, and nonprofits.

As remote work and distance learning continues, Texans in need of a reliable internet connection can now turn to an interactive map to locate a nearby public drive-up WiFi hotspot.

The Texas Free WiFi Map launched Thursday as a joint partnership between the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and Texas Legal Services Center.

The free mapping tool provides the location and log-in information for more than 500 hotspots across the state provided by Texas libraries, schools, and nonprofits. It will also be updated as more sites become available.

The map is available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

According to a recent report by Common Sense Media, Texas leads the country with the widest digital divide among students and teachers. Over 1.8 million K-12 students lack an adequate internet connection, and over 1.3 million don’t have access to a smart device.Danny Weiss, one of the report’s authors, told Houston Public Media rural, low-income communities of color are at highest risk of falling behind in the age of social distancing, disproportionately impacting Native American, Black, and Latinx students.

Weiss argues administrators need to prioritize establishing proper infrastructure as part of remote learning plans in order to prevent further learning loss among students.

“What they need to do, in my opinion,” Weiss said, “is to communicate with policymakers in the state of Texas and in Washington, D.C., and let them know what their needs are and how important this is to get it done quickly.”

Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter @terrazas_lauren.

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