Introducing Connect Philly, a new set of tools to find free Internet access and training–Technically Philly

Posted: Monday, March 5, 2012
By: Brian James Kirk

Here at Technically Philly, we value highly the opportunities that access to and education about the Internet provide to citizens across city.

We see it daily in our coverage, from the small startups that make international impact to the nonprofits that are using technology to better connect to their constituency in the county. Technology is changing Philadelphia.

Yet, it is estimated that 40 percent of households lack access to the Internet at home, a statistic that limits access to those opportunities.

With active efforts being launched and maintained across the city to improve that statistic — like the city’s Freedom Rings Partnership, which recently rebranded as KEYSPOT, the Free Library’s Hot Spots and retail locations that more and more are providing free access to the Internet — it became abundantly clear to us that if we could point to all of them at once, we could help connect citizens that lack access.

That’s why we’re proud to launch Connect Philly — – a new tool that aggregates locations across the city that provide Internet access. Built in partnership with those organizations listed above, it’s the largest data set of its kind to collect that information.
And we plan to keep collecting data about Internet access in Philadelphia.
More importantly, we thought ahead about the mission of Connect Philly. Our first priority was to launch it with a complimentary service that would allow people who don’t have access to the Internet still access the information using any mobile phone.

Citizens can send their address by text message to find the closest available Internet access point. Try it now: type an address in an SMS message (i.e. “1515 Market St.”) to 215-240-7296. In a matter of seconds, you’ll be able to find the closest location that provides free, or nearly free, access to the Internet. For help, text the word “help” to that phone number. To search for specific services, end the SMS message with terms ‘retail’, ‘public’, ‘wifi’, ‘disabled’ or ‘open’. Ex: “1515 Market St. retail”

We’re working with our partners, like the KEYSPOT, J-Lab, Knight Foundation and PlanPhilly to plan an official launch event in early April to kick-off this exciting project. For now, we hope to get the word out about the service in the hopes that additional locations that provide free access and training will add their location, or improve the records already on file. We hope you’ll join us in that effort.

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