With the closure of our brick and mortar school buildings due to the coronavirus, access to the internet is becoming a necessity for all students. However, statistics at the Federal Communications Commission suggest that one in three households has no broadband access. As this article from The Verge states, “living with the coronavirus is going to reveal hard truths about the digital divide.” State and federal efforts are underway to change this.
State Senator Lisa Wellman (41st LD, Mercer Island) emailed me today. Here’s what she shared.
“As this crisis extends into the future we must get all kids on line with connectivity and devices so education can continue in all parts of Washington. Russ Elliot, head of the Broadband Office and Lisa Brown, head of the Department of Commerce have put a plan in front of the Governor today in support of fast-tracking connectivity to unserved areas. The proposed solution can be rolled out to educational facilities and libraries across the state in areas of concern and tribal reservations, leveraging substantial broadband connectivity currently underused and utilizing existing networks already funded by state and federal dollars. Though this does not expand networks to the home, it does offer immediate supply of internet in convenient locations for Washington state citizens, students, and workers. Many of our rural areas are wondering what they can offer schoolchildren. These hot spots of connectivity will be an important first step in providing an answer and enabling districts to immediately begin planning for utilization if they so choose.”
At the national level, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) just launched a new campaign to advocate for a funding increase to the E-Rate program and allowing those funds to be used to support home internet access for students. Their statement says in part, “The ‘homework gap’ was a big problem before, but with schools closed around the country during COVID-19 and teachers conducting remote lessons and assignments, the most underprivileged students are at even greater risk of falling behind. We need Congress and the FCC to act now, and the E-Rate program is the best solution.”
School leaders and advocates can send emails and tweets to Congress and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai using the new campaign.
Find more resources and information about affordable internet access, visit our coronavirus resource page.