OUPIECE works to provide internet for Pontiac families

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Photo Courtesy of Policymap.com

his map shows the households with internet in Pontiac, which is outlined by the orange line. The darker the color, the more households with internet access. Pontiac has much lighter areas compared to their surrounding area.

Michael Pearce, Editor-in-Chief

After COVID-19 pushed many local schools to adapt and embrace a hybrid learning approach, families learned quickly that internet access is not created equal.

According to the Census data, nowhere in the 48432 zip code of Pontiac has quality internet, a contrast to their neighbor, Rochester Hills. The percentage of households in Pontiac with internet access never exceeds 80%.

The surrounding area tells a different story, with barely any other counties having as low of a percentage of households with internet.

Coco Moulder, a teacher in Pontiac schools and the co convener of the early childhood education sector of OUPIECE. OUPIECE works with families in Pontiac to assist families with young children in Pontiac and address disparities within Pontiac, according to OU’s website.

Moulder also works on the health side, assisting families with quality health care and mental health resources. Recently, as she’s seen families in Pontiac, she has noticed the extremes some have taken to find quality internet for online schooling.

“A grandmother has a set of twins who are in preschool, so she’s trying to get three or four-year-olds logged into a remote classroom,” Moulder said. “The internet is just dropping — the teacher is in the middle of a sentence and the computer just goes down.”

Moulder did research on where the nearest cell tower is in relation to Pontiac and said she could not find one within five miles of the city.

“The kids are not getting an effective, efficient education if half the time their Wi-Fi is going down,” she said.

The disparity in speed, availability and access reflects the wealth gap between Pontiac and the surrounding area.

“I don’t know why a county like Oakland County, which is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, would not be open to considering the resources that are coming out of 1200 North Telegraph,” Moulder said. “It makes no sense.”

A recent Detroit Free Press article reported that Oakland County is one of the top counties in the nation for current affluence and prospects for future success. According to the Free Press, Oakland County’s median household income is $96,000

For citizens concerned about Pontiac’s internet access, Moulder suggested reaching out at the local level and talking to officials.

“If you’re not making a fuss or saying anything, and you’re just complaining but not going to the people who can make a difference, then there’s no difference being made,” she said.

OUPIECE has spoke to local and state politicians, including 29th District Representative Brenda Carter, to enact change in the Pontiac school district.

With the election results looming in the future, the House of Representatives, Senate and presidential elections will all have impact on Pontiac’s future.

However, election results will not immediately fix the internet situation in Pontiac. Change will take time, and change starts with the citizens.

“A poverty mindset itself is a monster,” Moulder said. “To undo a poverty mindset takes a long time, and that’s why we talk about resilience. This is an issue that parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are facing.”

This change in accessible internet is something Moulder thinks will only grow in importance over time, because virtual learning is more affordable for schools and for those with quality internet, it can be a viable alternative to in-person classes.

But, in the meantime, OUPIECE is offering its space and help to those in need. Moulder also believes local businesses and churches should consider offering their Wi-Fi to families.

“You can use our community room if you need to do your homework, more businesses in the community should be okay with that as long as you are adhering to social distancing and wearing a mask,” Moulder said. “That’s something that the community could get behind if you have the space.”