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Austin Free-Net seeks device donations to help provide internet access to those in need

Since its founding in 1995, Austin Free-Net has helped Austinites in need gain internet access for school and work.

AUSTIN, Texas — For the second year in a row, Austin Free-Net is looking to make a holiday push for laptop, tablet and cell phone donations.

"Anytime you whip out your phone or your, you know, your credit card, you should definitely be aware that you are considered fortunate in the community and not everybody has that freedom," Jess Ross, interim executive director for Austin Free-Net, said.

All year-round, AFN collects devices, clears them of previous data, cleans them up and provides them to other non-profits to distribute to those who don't have easy internet access. During the pandemic, the divide between those with easy internet access and those without became more apparent.

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"There are statistics out there that if you make around $10,000 annually, about 45 percent of those people do not have sufficient devices. However, if you make around $100,000, about 5 percent of those people don't have devices. So the digital divide isn't just 'haves and have-nots,' it's literally everybody," Ross said.

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The non-profit provides the like-new devices to students and professionals.

"COVID-19 put a spotlight on the need and the digital divide itself," Ross said. "Everybody working from home, schooling from home, you were able to see that they definitely needed multiple devices in one household to function, both work and school."

Ross added those most in need include low-income families, seniors and people of color.

"Around this time of year, from Black Friday to the end of the year, everybody is getting new devices, and what better to do with the old devices, but to give them to community members in need?" Ross said.

While AFN collects devices all year, Ross is hoping a holiday push will be able to provide 500 devices to families in and around Austin in 2022. If you would like to donate, you can do so at the DeWitty Job Training and Employment Center during AFN business hours.


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