Having reliable computer and internet access is a necessity for almost every aspect of life – applying for a job, filing taxes, even going to school or work – and it can be difficult if you live in a household without a computer or the Internet. In Philadelphia, this is a reality for many.
According to recent statistics from the Census Bureau, Philadelphia ranks fourth in households without Internet access among the largest cities in the country, meaning that more than 98,000 households do not have access.
“Even before the pandemic, to apply for a job as a housekeeper in hotels in the area, you had to apply online… Who were the people [without computer access] to do?” says Lori Morse, library manager at Parkway Central Library.
In Philadelphia, there are programs designed to help, including at community centers and libraries, and programs where you can get a free computer or Internet access.
Here is where you can use a computer for free in Philadelphia and some programs to get your own computer for free.
You can use a computer with Internet access at any Philadelphia Free Library branch if you have a library card. Most libraries even offer print and copy services at 25 cents per page. Anyone who lives, works, pays taxes, or goes to school in Philadelphia can get a library card at no cost. Additionally, residents of Pennsylvania can obtain a Philadelphia Library Card. You can subscribe to an online cardWhere go to your nearest branch for a librarian to help you register. Check out our guide to everything your library card gives you. The full list of free library locations is available here.
If you are looking for a job, trying to start a business or finding a new career, the Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC) offers a variety of services and learning opportunities, such as career workshops, professional training sessions and whims. Located on the ground floor of the Parkway Central Library, the BRIC is open to everyone, whether you are an experienced entrepreneur or just starting your job search for the first time. The center has three computers and there are 10 more in the main part of the library.
Using a computer at the South Street Business Center is not free, but it is an affordable option. The center’s main business is printing and shipping, but also has a computer available for rental by the minute. Email ahead if you want to print, but if you need to write an email, submit an application, or check social media, you can find a computer here in a snap . Computer rentals are available for 25 cents per minute – a good option if you need to do something quickly online, but don’t go here to fill out a lengthy job application – 25 cents per minute can work out quickly add up.
There are more than 20 public computer labs across the city, most of which are operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. While you can find the complete list of community centers with free computers on their websitewe have also listed some of them here.
Located in West Philly, the Christy Rec Center has a free public computer lab in addition to its gym, pool, multi-purpose rooms, and hydration station.
The East Passyunk Community Center houses a computer lab with six workstations for community use. The computer lab is open at certain times from Monday to Saturday. According to John Medica, the director of the East Passyunk Community Center, these hours can change, so it’s a good idea to call ahead.
Located in North Philly, the Athletic Recreation Center has a public computer center with 10 computers. It is often busy so you may have to wait to find a seat.
This center, just a few blocks from Eastern State Penitentiary, has a public computer lab with more than a dozen computers.
The South Philly Rec center was renovated in 2015 and includes many computers inside their lab for public use. The center also offers technical assistance for seniors, as well as assistance with CV writing and job search workshops.
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