Organizations Partner to Combat the Digital Divide by Launching Searchable Wi-Fi Map for Needed Broadband Connections
American Connection Project organizations launch an interactive tool for users to locate more than 2,300 free Wi-Fi locations in 49 states
ARDEN HILLS, MINN. (October 20, 2020) – Several partner organizations today announced the launch of the American Connection Project (ACP) interactive Wi-Fi map. The map provides a free resource to help the public locate more than 2,000 free Wi-Fi locations in 49 U.S. states, with more than half at local 4-H Cooperative Extension offices. The map includes Wi-Fi locations from Land O’Lakes, Inc. and its ag retail owner network, along with several partner organizations including 4-H, CentraCare, Compeer, Kentucky Farm Bureau, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Polaris, Inc., the Public Library Association, Tractor Supply Company and Watch Communications, and support from Microsoft and Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.
Today, 18 million Americans don’t have access to high-speed internet – most of them in rural communities. Further, roughly nine million K-12 students and 400,000 public school teachers living in both rural and urban communities lack reliable internet access required for learning. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted health care usage causing telemedicine visits to reach an all-time high as patients seek to avoid exposure at health care facilities.
The Wi-Fi map is an extension of efforts undertaken by the American Connection Project to drive meaningful progress toward closing the digital divide to create opportunities and reduce digital inequality for rural and urban communities in the United States. The map is designed to provide immediate but temporary access for those Americans who lack access to the internet today.
“The launch of the American Connection Project map marks an important milestone in our effort to bring critical services to disconnected communities across America – and a resource for individuals to find broadband access when they truly need it,” said Tina May, Vice President of Rural Services at Land O’Lakes, Inc. “We are enormously grateful for the ongoing commitment of our partners in banding together to advocate on behalf of rural communities throughout a difficult time across our country.”
“More than 18 million Americans do not have access to broadband Internet, making the digital divide one of the greatest barriers to education access and workforce development for America’s youth” said Jennifer Sirangelo president and CEO, National 4-H Council. “Broadband access was already a great challenge for students before the pandemic, so now that so many young people are matriculating from home, it’s imperative that they have high speed internet connections they can depend on. And as the youth development program for Cooperative Extension serving the needs of young people across the country, we are pleased to be a part of this coalition and its mission to make broadband accessible for communities that need it most.”
“All Americans, but particularly rural Americans, will benefit when greater access to affordable broadband internet services is created. This has been a priority issue for Kentucky Farm Bureau for several years now,” said Mark Haney, President of Kentucky Farm Bureau. “Partnering with Land O’Lakes and the coalition of organizations that makes up the American Connection Project aligns very closely to our efforts, and we are proud to offer free outdoor Wi-Fi signals at our nearly 200 locations statewide as part of this noble initiative.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve worked with our partners to keep people connected by bringing free public Wi-Fi hotspots to communities around the country--vital links to the internet during a difficult time” said Shelley McKinley, vice president of Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft. “This map is an excellent summation of that work, and we are grateful for the partnership of so many organizations who are working to bridge the broadband gap.”
“We’re honored to be a part of the ACP’s efforts to find ways to improve rural connectivity. Providing free Wi-Fi from nearly 580 Tractor Supply stores and counting is one of the near-term solutions we can provide to help connect school children, small business owners, farmers, and those who need internet access to a vital resource in today’s digital world,” said Glenn Allison, Tractor Supply’s Vice President, IT Enterprise Architecture and IT Solutions.
Throughout the next several months, additional locations will be added to the map. The American Connection Project searchable Wi-Fi map can be accessed at https://www.americanconnection.io/.
About the American Connection Project
Millions of Americans go without broadband internet access—most of them in rural communities. The American Connection Project fosters long-term digital inclusion in support of vibrant and thriving rural communities. Efforts include raising awareness about the critical nature of connectivity; advocating for meaningful policy reform and broadband investment; and, taking decisive action to provide connectivity options where they’re needed most. Land O’Lakes is convening organizations and leaders from across the country in this critical time to build strong rural communities positioned for competitiveness and connection now and in the future. More information can be found at AmericanConnectionProject.com.
4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System and USDA and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs.
About Kentucky Farm Bureau
Kentucky Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization dedicated to serving our membership family and their communities. As the Voice of Agriculture, we identify problems, develop solutions, promote economic success, and enhance the quality of life for all. With agents and offices located in all 120 counties across the Commonwealth, Kentucky Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company is the largest property and casualty insurance provider domiciled in Kentucky. As a Farm Bureau member service, we are committed to serve the insurance needs of local communities, support growth and retention of membership and maintain a responsive presence in all Kentucky counties.
About Microsoft Airband
Microsoft’s Airband Initiative is an effort to close the broadband gap and help communities use new connectivity to improve education, health care, and agriculture, and transform their businesses. The Airband Initiative works with the private and public sectors to invest in new technologies, accelerate broadband deployment, and support policy changes with the goal of bringing broadband access to millions of people in the United States. More information can be found at aka.ms/airband
Microsoft Media Relations: WE Communications for Microsoft, 425-638-7777, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Polaris, Inc.
As the global leader in powersports, Polaris Inc. (NYSE: PII) pioneers product breakthroughs and enriching experiences and services that have invited people to discover the joy of being outdoors since our founding in 1954. With annual 2019 sales of $6.8 billion, Polaris’ high-quality product line-up includes the Polaris RANGER, RZR and GENERAL side-by-side off-road vehicles; Sportsman all-terrain off-road vehicles; Indian Motorcycle mid-size and heavyweight motorcycles; Slingshot moto-roadsters; snowmobiles; and deck, cruiser and pontoon boats, including industry-leading Bennington pontoons. Polaris enhances the riding experience with parts, garments and accessories, along with a growing aftermarket portfolio, including TransAmerica Auto Parts. Polaris’ presence in adjacent markets includes military and commercial off-road vehicles, quadricycles, and electric vehicles. Proudly headquartered in Minnesota, Polaris serves more than 100 countries across the globe. www.polaris.com
Polaris media contact: Jessica Rogers, Jessica.email@example.com, 763-513-3445
About Tractor Supply Company
Tractor Supply Company (NASDAQ: TSCO), the largest rural lifestyle retailer in the United States, has been passionate about serving its unique niche, as a one-stop shop for recreational farmers, ranchers and all those who enjoy living the rural lifestyle, for more than 80 years. Tractor Supply offers an extensive mix of products necessary to care for home, land, pets and animals with a focus on product localization, exclusive brands and legendary customer service that addresses the needs of the Out Here lifestyle. With more than 38,000 Team Members, the Company leverages its physical store assets with digital capabilities to offer customers the convenience of purchasing products they need anytime, anywhere and any way they choose at the everyday low prices they deserve. At June 27, 2020, the Company operated 1,881 Tractor Supply stores in 49 states and an e-commerce website at www.TractorSupply.com.
Tractor Supply Company also owns and operates Petsense, a small-box pet specialty supply retailer focused on meeting the needs of pet owners, primarily in small and mid-size communities, and offering a variety of pet products and services. At June 27, 2020, the Company operated 180 Petsense stores in 25 states. For more information on Petsense, visit www.Petsense.com.