We need to shift the narrative around digital equity. Top of mind for many participants were the very ways we talk about and define digital equity—and how it shapes and sustains the larger systemic challenges we see play out in school systems. Inequitable funding formulas, digital redlining, and biased, eurocentric curriculum, for example, all contribute incrementally to inequitable educational experiences.
In the fall and winter of 2020, New America embarked on a snapshot study to gather data on how—or if—people were discovering, accessing, and using their public libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on materials that libraries made available online. Our findings, which include data from a national survey of 2,620 people, highlight the need for more inclusivity, more focus on providing internet access, and more awareness-raising initiatives with local organizations and schools.
New America's Open Technology Institute urged the Federal Communications Commission to quickly and successfully implement the Emergency Broadband Benefit, a new subsidy to help low-income people pay for broadband service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will provide $50 per month to qualifying low-income households and $75 in Tribal areas. OTI’s comments made the following recommendations:
When schools across the country were forced to shutter abruptly last month, headlines plastered the news with urgent questions about remote teaching and learning in times of crisis. But what remains largely absent from media coverage, nationwide analyses, and research is home connectivity among teachers. Do all p+PreK-12 teachers have Internet access at home? Do they all have high-speed broadband that allows them to stream video and run Zoom classrooms, keeping up with the demands of schools and districts?
The historic $2 trillion “economic rescue” bill includes key funding, which New America explains here, for a number of education initiatives ranging from early childhood to post-secondary. What it doesn’t include, noticeably, is a robust response for helping households gain better online access.