Legal Aid threatens to sue city over lack of internet access for homeless students

A cart is used to hold and organize school-owned laptops to be distributed to students at a Manhattan elementary school in March. | Getty Images

A cart is used to hold and organize laptops to be distributed to students at a Manhattan elementary school in March. | Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The Legal Aid Society is threatening to sue the de Blasio administration for failing to provide internet access to homeless children in shelters, effectively blocking their ability to participate in remote learning during Covid-19.

Legal Aid and the law firm Milbank, representing the Coalition for the Homeless, sent a demand letter on Thursday to schools Chancellor Richard Carranza and Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter, calling on the city to remedy internet access problems at the Flatlands Family Residence in Brooklyn and other DHS facilities with school-age children.


“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, internet access is not a luxury; it is a basic prerequisite to entering the ‘virtual classroom’ that has been necessitated by the virus,” the letter, shared with POLITICO, said. “By neglecting to ensure that homeless children can connect to the internet, the City is in violation of its constitutional obligation to provide a ‘sound basic education.’”

The de Blasio administration partnered with Apple earlier this year to provide iPads to students in shelters and contracted with T-Mobile to provide cellular data on those devices. But these efforts “soon proved to be of little or no use to many children,” the letter said, because shelters like the Flatlands facility lack reliable cell service in the building.

For Crystal Boyd, a resident of the Flatlands shelter who has two teenage children, the issue has been “very frustrating.”

Her son, 15, is in high school, while her daughter, 18, is attending college remotely.

Her daughter had to finish a paper due at midnight on a recent night sitting outside the building because of connectivity issues inside, and her son has had to

U.S. expected to sue Google next week as DOJ seeks support from states

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is expected to sue Alphabet’s Google <GOOGL.O> as soon as next week, and is currently urging state attorneys general to sign onto the lawsuit, according to three sources familiar with the process.

The lawsuit is expected to accuse Google, builder of the world’s dominant search engine, of looking to disadvantage rivals such as Microsoft’s Bing by depriving them of the data about users and user preferences that they need to improve and to advertise to people.

The Justice Department has also been investigating Google’s “search advertising,” the ads that appear under a search box if a person looks up a consumer item like “dishwasher.” Google controls the sale of the space under these searches, as well as the tools to make those ad sales.

Google has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. The Justice Department declined to comment.

Regarding search, Google has said users have access to other information sources, like Twitter for news and Amazon for products. In advertising, it says it competes with a large array of companies, including Oracle <ORCL.N> and Verizon <VZ.N>.

State attorneys general, many of whom are already investigating other Google businesses, are in the process of considering whether to sign on to the federal lawsuit, the sources said.

The lawsuit would be the first real blow to fall after the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission said last year they had opened antitrust investigations of Google, Facebook <FB.O>, Amazon <AMZN.O> and Apple <AAPL.O>. Progressive Democrats have praised the effort.

Separately, President Donald Trump’s administration has said social media companies, including Google’s YouTube, have stifled conservative voices.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz, Paresh Dave and Karen Freifeld; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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