WINTER HAVEN, FL (September 1, 2016) – Students in the Florence Villa area of Winter Haven now have access to internet, thanks to a public-private partnership between NAP of Central Florida (NCF) and the City of Winter Haven. Steve Sowards, NCF’s Managing Partner, announced that the project went live on August 15, 2016, after a year-long effort to develop a way to provide low/no cost internet access to economically-depressed areas, giving students a tool to help them succeed.
The project’s objective is to provide filtered free internet to students within the Polk County School Board system who currently do not have internet access at home. This particular Filtered Limited Internet Project (FLIP) works because the geographic location of a telecommunication tower that NCF leases from the City allows the company to transmit wireless internet access to residences in the Florence Villa area. The internet is filtered to the same standards that the School Board implements, preventing students going to certain internet sites.
Volunteers who work closely with students in this area are enthusiastic about the potential of this project. Doug Lockwood, President of Public Education Partnership (PEP), feels strongly that community and business involvement in schools is critical to the quality of education for Polk County students. “I’m so excited about this project that enables an underserved sector of our community to have access to internet and allow them to work from home,” Lockwood said.
Another volunteer, Audrey Nettlow, works with students after school and sees this project as a way to help even the playing field for students who otherwise might sit outside the center after hours to access the internet, or travel to the library. “I’m thrilled that the students now have access to the internet at home,” Nettlow said. “This opens up a whole world of opportunity for students!”
Hiep Nguyen, City of Winter Haven’s Chief Information Officer, emphasizes the importance of digital inclusion as internet access becomes crucial to everyday life and commerce. “The public-private partnership project will provide a tremendous benefit to school kids in a disadvantaged area,” Nguyen said. “The kids who otherwise would have no access at home will be able connect online to do their homework, access school and library resources, do research, and expand their possibilities.”