Mary McCane recently enrolled her 4-year-old grandson Zhion in a public charter school, believing this is “the most critical” time in his learning.

But the family, who lives in Ward 8, only has one mobile hotspot to support not only Zhion but McCane and her college-age daughter. And while McCane says she believes she qualifies for a new free Internet program the city rolled out last month, she hasn’t heard a word about it.

“I am very concerned” that poor Internet will disrupt his learning this year, she said. “It’s not the best mobile hotspot at all, period.”

In a city where 20 percent of households aren’t connected to high-speed Internet, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the Internet for All initiative in early September to provide it for free for up to 25,000 low-income households over the next year, via partnership with Comcast and RCN. Families are eligible if they have a pre-K3 to 12th grade student enrolled in a D.C. public school, and receive SNAP or TANF public assistance benefits.

But four weeks after the announcement, the program has been slow to start. The Office of the Chief Technology Officer, which is spearheading the program, hasn’t made contact with all eligible households, and says it’s faced hurdles with families thinking emails or calls they’ve received about the program — from an unknown city government agency — are spam, or a scam.

There are also questions about the quality of the service, with one advocate calling the Internet packages “substandard” at a time when many students need to access online classes.

OCTO confirmed about 4,000 households have signed up after its first round of robotexts, calls and emails in September, or about 16 percent of its goal. OCTO officials would not provide data on how many have successfully set up the program.

Read the full article about free Internet program by Taylor Swaak at The 74.