Q&A with FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel: The ‘Homework Gap’ Is an ‘Especially Cruel’ Reality During the Pandemic
A Q&A with Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on how she plans to use her new role at the FCC to tackle digital equity issues. "We must start recognizing that for students who don’t have internet access at home, having the school loan out a wireless hot spot is the difference between keeping up in class and falling behind. We can do something to fix this. It’s why we’re in the process of evaluating how we can update the current E-rate program to meet the moment students and families find themselves in," she said. ...
The vast majority of school district leaders and principals say at least some of their students still don't have sufficient internet access at home for remote learning. And most educators believe the U.S. government should be providing more funding to ensure that's no longer the case. Two recent surveys reflect strong convictions among educators that the level of home internet access in the communities they serve continues to be inadequate.
Remote learning continues to be out of reach for millions of students who lack a reliable internet connection at home. But that doesn't have to be a permanent reality, and efforts are already underway to ensure that it isn't. Achieving universal broadband access would cost billions of dollars and will likely take time to build the infrastructure and political will to make it happen.
All it takes is a nationwide crisis to underline the most glaring equity issues our society faces. The one that has captured my attention during COVID-19 is the chronic lack of home internet access for people of color, low-income households, and rural residents. That lack of access puts schools in an especially difficult position as they expand their use of technology during the pandemic, and beyond. It's important to remember that this technology challenge has been staring us in the face for decades. It is not just a COVID-19 issue—it is a civil rights issue of the utmost importance.