Coronavirus and Connectivity
Data collected from an April 7-12 Pew survey found 59% of parents with lower incomes who had children in schools that were remote at the time said their children would likely face at least one of three digital obstacles asked about. Overall, 38% of parents with children whose K-12 schools closed in the spring said that their child was very or somewhat likely to face one or more of these issues. In addition, parents with middle incomes were about twice as likely as parents with higher incomes to report anticipating issues.
Our networks still don’t reach everyone, and private dollars alone won’t solve this challenge. Our country needs to close that gap, and now is the time for legislators and policymakers to act to ensure the educational and economic success of all Americans by making broadband connectivity more accessible, affordable and sustainable. Market forces and private companies can’t do it alone because of the lack of return on the significant investment necessary to reach all Americans.
Tens of millions of Americans still lack access to affordable broadband, leaving them stranded on the wrong side of the country's stubborn digital divide at one of the worst possible moments in American history. While the Covid-19 crisis is an immense tragedy, it has created an opportunity for Congress to fix this longstanding problem. Several promising proposals already exist, including one in which the federal government would provide a "broadband benefit" in the form of a monthly subsidy to ensure that essential broadband access is affordable for all.
There are almost three times as many Americans without a broadband subscription in blue urban areas than in red state rural areas. The Trump Federal Communications Commission, by focusing its attention on rural areas with a lack of access (i.e., those unable to get broadband) is dealing with only part of the digital divide. The larger part of the digital divide is adoption; those Americans who may have broadband available, but don’t or can’t use it. Here are three solutions the Trump FCC could pursue if they really were dedicated to making the digital divide their “number one priority.”
In their platform, the Democratic Party specifies that the Federal Communications Commission should retain network neutrality as a policy and hold internet service providers accountable. It also pledges to invest “in broadband and 5G technology, including rural and municipal broadband.” The 2016 Republican Party platform, which was extended to include this election cycle, aims “to encourage the sharing economy and on-demand platforms to compete in an open market.” The party wants to make sure that the internet continues to advance through competition-driven innovation.
Defeating the digital divide is much more than wiring up a home with an Internet connection. Families, particularly those with school-age children, often experience gaps in device access, digital literacy and cyberhygiene. There might not be enough devices, the hardware may be outdated or incompatible, and there may be a lack of security software. The household may also need training, have privacy concerns or require additional digital wraparound services. Our public library allies will continue to play a vital role in supporting these programs and needs.
If you live in rural Wisconsin, you know how bad the internet service can be. More than 40 percent of rural residents lack access to high speed internet, according to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin government has done relatively little to help. From 2013-2019, the state funded about $20 million in grants for expansion of broadband, an amount experts say is less than negligible.
Families in suburban Cook County public housing to get free internet in Comcast program funded by federal CARES Act dollars
All families with school-age children in suburban Cook County in Chicago public housing buildings will be eligible for free broadband internet under a program funded through federal coronavirus stimulus money.
T‑Mobile Launches Project 10Million, Historic $10.7B Initiative Aimed at Closing the Homework Gap and Connecting Students to Opportunity – for Free
T-Mobile is officially launching Project 10Million, an unprecedented $10.7B initiative aimed at delivering internet connectivity to millions of underserved student households at no cost to them. Partnering with school districts across the country, the program offers free wireless hotspots, free high-speed data and access to laptops and tablets, at-cost.
On Feb 14, 2020, various Members of Congress wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai expressing concern that the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Order may inadvertently undermine the ability of states to help close the digital divide due to the rushed process undertaken by the FCC's adoption of the Order.