By Kelly Just, Special Projects Executive Producer - email
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -
People probably don't give the digital divide separating those who can afford to pay for internet service at home and those who can't much thought. But some businesses are helping to bridge the gap between the two.
The library is always a good place for people to come and hop on the internet if they can't afford to pay for the service at home. But KCTV5 found more and more people are finding new ways to get online - like coming to their nearest McDonald's for more than just the fries and burgers. The free Wi-Fi is becoming a hot item that's not listed on any menu.
Homework time for Stacie Brooks comes with fries and her favorite sandwich. On one specific day the Washington High School senior was working on her assignment for her entrepreneurial class.
"I'm making my business plan. I have a cleaning service," Brooks said.
She said she and her friends come to the McDonald's at 75th Place and State Avenue in Kansas City, KS, every week for the fast internet.
"I think that's great since my internet doesn't work at home. I have somewhere else to go for free to get my work done so my grades won't slip," Brooks said.
In 2010, company giants like Starbucks and McDonald's changed their policy to fit with the technological times, allowing anyone who walks in the door to utilize their Wi-Fi. There is no purchase necessary and no password needed.
"It is a good business decision for McDonald's to do this," Cassandra Savage, an owner of the McDonald's, said.
Savage owns four McDonald's restaurants in the Kansas City area and she admits it's a win-win for the community and her bottom line.
"Many of them come here and they do office work and have meetings. And, of course we have students from community that come and study and we are just glad that we can offer that," she said.
According to the Kansas Corporation Commission, only 63 percent of families in the Sunflower State, or 1.2 million households, have internet access. It's been six years since all 5,000 high school students in the KCK School District were assigned free laptops.
The only stumbling block discovered in a district-wide survey revealed that 40 percent of students don't have internet at home. The question then being asked is where students turn to get connected.
"Sometimes I go to the office at my apartments or I go to KFC or something to my auntie's house around the corner," said Dan Murray, a sophomore at FL Schlagle High School.
Dan said he finds a way to connect to the internet somehow.
"I usually walk around to get a signal," said Fatimah Coppah, a senior at Schlagle High School.
She explained that she basically walks around in her neighborhood. She showed KCTV5's Sandra Olivas how she walks through the parking lot of her apartment complex looking for an open signal that's not password protected.
"OK, I see it now. It's right here. This is the one I use. It's called NETGEAR," she said.
Coppah faces one big downfall with this method, though.
"I just go to a certain page and go back inside because it's too cold to be standing outside," she said.
"I think there are a lot of studies going on right now about what do we need and where do we need it and how are we going to fund it," said Mary Lou Hines Fritts, the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.
Fritts said states like Missouri have set up the Missouri Broad Band Now initiative to tackle the problem of getting internet access to low-income families as well as rural communities that aren't wired yet.
Until the digital divide is narrowed, students like Victor Cruz don't mind spending a few dollars at places like McDonald's to feed their stomachs and also their minds.
"It's very tempting, but you could always use a refreshment or drink to keep us going on our homework," said the senior from Sumner Academy.
While several of the people interviewed talked about ordering food while at McDonald's, their company policy says no purchase is required to use their free Wi-Fi.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
Saturday, May 25 2013 2:12 PM EDT2013-05-25 18:12:27 GMT
ROCKVIEW, MO (CNN/AP) - Federal investigators are trying to determine how two freight trains collided in southeast Missouri early Saturday morning, injuring seven people. Authorities say the two trainsMore >
Two trains collided in Missouri Saturday morning, causing an overpass to collapse and injuring seven. More >
Friday, May 24 2013 9:01 PM EDT2013-05-25 01:01:17 GMT
Strong feelings are funning high one day after the Boy Scouts of America reversed its policy on gay scouts. The decision upset one Kansas City man so much that he decided to make a very personal protest.More >
Strong feelings are running high one day after the Boy Scouts of America reversed its policy on gay scouts. The decision upset one Kansas City man so much that he decided to make a very personal protest.More >
Saturday, May 25 2013 1:59 PM EDT2013-05-25 17:59:50 GMT
A multiple vehicle collision has closed lanes of eastbound Interstate 70 Saturday afternoon. The wreck happened on the interstate, just past Brooklyn Avenue. Two left lanes are closed. There's no wordMore >
A multiple vehicle crash has closed lanes of eastbound Interstate 70 Saturday afternoon.More >
A New Jersey company that operates 13 TGI Fridays restaurants accused of secretly replacing premium liquor with low-quality booze says it's shocked at the allegations.More >
At one bar, a mixture that included rubbing alcohol and caramel coloring was sold as scotch. In another, premium liquor bottles were refilled with water - and apparently not even clean water at that.More >
Dan Sligh and his wife were in their pickup truck on Interstate 5 heading to a camping trip when a bridge before them disappeared in a "big puff of dust."More >
The trucker was hauling drilling equipment when his load bumped against the steel framework over an Interstate 5 bridge. He looked in his rearview mirror and watched in horror as the span collapsed into the water behind him....More >
Friday, May 24 2013 7:31 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:31:26 GMT
A nurse who serves on the Kauffman Stadium K-crew was able to revive a 14-year-old girl who collapsed during Thursday night's game.The girl was dancing in the upper-deck stands when she suddenly collapsed.More >
A nurse who serves on the Kauffman Stadium K-crew was able to revive a 14-year-old girl who collapsed during Thursday night's game.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 10:08 PM EDT2013-05-24 02:08:55 GMT
A military father came home to Las Vegas after spending a year overseas, and surprised his children with an early return. Major Scott Powell spent almost a year in Afghanistan flying planes in the UnitedMore >
A military father came home to Las Vegas after spending a year overseas, and surprised his children with an early return.More >
Friday, May 24 2013 7:38 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:38:20 GMT
The federal government warned recently that nearly three out of five tested positive for the bacteria found in feces. With Memorial Day weekend marking the official start of pool season, the Centers forMore >
The federal government warned recently that nearly three out of five tested positive for the bacteria found in feces. There are steps you can take to enjoy a summer day at the pool. More >
Friday, May 24 2013 5:23 PM EDT2013-05-24 21:23:39 GMT
Police are investigating whether a person being shot in the chest is connected to a home invasion robbery.Two men attempted to burst into a home in the 106 block of Greenwood Road when shots were fired.More >
A woman fired shots at three men attempting to break into her home, and one of the suspects was shot in the chest, police said. Her husband described the harrowing ordeal. More >