Facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources
The digital divide in America has never been more apparent than it has in the face of COVID-19. Disparities which already existed due to economic and geographic factors have only become further exacerbated in recent months. As more individuals work remotely and families navigate distance learning for their children, the need for access to broadband internet in all areas of the US is abundantly clear.
Although an unexpected message from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, our aim is really about opportunity and community. We believe that communications policy—rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity—has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities to bridge our divides. We don't believe that broadband educates children. We do believe that broadband facilitates vital connections between students and teachers, especially during this time when so many schools are shuttered. We don't believe broadband makes you healthy.
The debate on whether broadband is a luxury or an essential connection to society is over. More than twice as many people are now using residential broadband during business hours as before the COVID-19 crisis. Over 55 million students have been impacted by school closures. The use of telehealth has skyrocketed. This, I believe, is our broadband moment: a hinge of history that will determine whether today’s residential broadband is fit for the changed world in which we inhabit or whether its limits work to disadvantage those that are not equipped to use it.
A quarter-century ago, the idea of “educational technology” popularized the notion that children would benefit if computers in schools and libraries were connected to the internet.
Michigan State University's Quello Center reported this week that middle and high school students with high-speed Internet access at home have more digital skills, higher grades, and perform better on standardized tests, such as the SAT. Regardless of socioeconomic status, students who cannot access the Internet from home or are dependent on a cell phone for Internet access do worse in school and are less likely to attend college or university. The deficit in digital skills contributes to lower student interest in careers related to science, technology, engineering, and math.
In communities where too many people have no access to broadband infrastructure, investing in connections to community anchor institutions is an intermediate step that can pay huge public dividends. Imperial County, located in the sparsely populated desert region of southeastern California, is an exciting example. When relying on a single telecommunications provider and its outdated technology, Imperial County school districts, higher-education institutions, and government agencies had limited access to broadband infrastructure.
A nonprofit, member-owned organization governed by Michigan’s public universities, Merit is America’s longest running regional research and education network – founded in 1966. Merit’s management and network expertise goes back all the way to the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNet), which spawned the modern internet. After more than fifty years of innovation, Merit continues to serve higher education, K-12, library, government, health-care and public-sector members. Its work goes beyond connectivity to include security and community services.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's July 10 Open Meeting, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai laid out in a blog post on June 18, 2019. I'm traveling to New York this week; below is a shorter-than-usual weekly that takes a look at how Chairman Pai plans to take education out of the Educational Broadband Service -- and broadcast television.
I know firsthand what it’s like living on the wrong side of the digital divide because my local community in rural Minnesota has been experiencing it for far too long. That is one of the reasons why I founded A Better Wireless, a wireless ISP that is seeking to connect rural Minnesotans who lack affordable broadband access.
The Benton Foundation and EducationSuperHighway met with Federal Communications Commission Wireline Competition Bureau staff and separately with legal advisors to Chairman Pai and Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks on March 7, 2019, to discuss a white paper on E-rate.