Facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources
As the conditions of students without home broadband access or a device mirror the broad systemic inequalities of the US, Congress must do more than offer piecemeal funding to connect K-12 students to the internet.
In schools with 1-to-1 device programs, students have access to a wider and deeper range of learning resources. Around the nation, virtual learning needs spurred rapid adoption of 1-to-1 policies across K-12 education. While the final numbers on device adoption aren’t in yet, “There’s clearly been a huge effort to secure more devices,” says Keith Krueger, CEO of the nonprofit Consortium for School Networking.
Though about 12 million students in the United States still lack any internet access at all—a problem cast into relief during the pandemic—there is good news: That number is steadily shrinking. Yet, even as the number of unconnected students declines, there is another group that, for years, has made virtually no headway. That is students who are “under-connected.” Students and families who are considered under-connected are those who have internet access and devices in their home, but not at a caliber or quality sufficient for smooth and consistent online learning.
Sen Edward Markey (D-MA), Sen Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Rep Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced the Securing Universal Communications Connectivity to Ensure Students Succeed (SUCCESS) Act to build on the Emergency Connectivity Fund created under the American Rescue Plan and provide schools and libraries with $8 billion a year over five years -- for a total of $40 billion -- to continue to provide Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet-enabled devices to students, staff, and library patrons following the coronavirus
For the children and families who don’t have reliable internet access, help has finally arrived. The Emergency Connectivity Fund, launched by the Federal Communications Commission in July 2021, is the country’s largest program ever to help students get the internet access they need at home to participate fully in virtual school.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for steps to narrow the so-called homework gap as schools incorporate more technology into their classrooms. Ranking member of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Bob Latta (R-OH) said that while larger cities often have high quality broadband access, many smaller communities do not, and there is strong bipartisan support of promoting digital equity.
As President Biden and Congress debate a $1.2 [tr]illion infrastructure bill that includes a historic investment in broadband, it’s an important moment to question what we mean by digital equity and what it will take to achieve it.
Before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, communities and schools recognized that students without Internet access at home are at a disadvantage. However, an overlooked aspect of this disparity is that many students also lack a desktop or laptop computer at home. Disconnected students likely benefit if they are given free Internet; however, their school performance may still suffer if they are limited to completing assignments on a smartphone.
Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced schools and libraries can now begin to file applications for the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, the FCC's latest effort to connect Americans. Schools and libraries can apply for financial support to purchase laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections to serve unmet needs for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons.