Equity Issues

3 Ways to Support Students Lacking Adequate Broadband

Students in rural areas, in areas just outside of suburbs and in areas with high population density (subsidized apartments, mobile home parks) have less access to high-speed internet than their counterparts in cities and suburbs. There’s also an estimates 1.47 million homeless K–12 students in the United States, who also have significant issues with access.

This gap in adequate internet access creates differences in the quality of learning students receive, according to a recently released report, the Student Home Internet Connectivity Study, from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).

In order to address these inequities, the report’s authors offered several steps schools and districts can take:

  • Using E-rate funds to provide hotspots in areas with limited internet access;

  • Working with “ISPs and community leaders to ensure that ISPs offer suitable plans for the community”; and

  • Using new funding such as the Emergency Connectivity Fund, to pay for services that may be outside the scope of E-rate. Some examples include:

    • District-provided mobile WiFi, such as on school buses and in stadiums and other locations that can reach into neighboring areas;

    • Using Citizens Band Radio Service to extend internet connectivity; and

    • Investing in 4G to provide access in the homes of students who lack other options.

It’s worth noting that, according to the study, students living in affluent areas do not automatically have optimal internet speeds. However, in their case, the issue might not be access but other factors, ranging from “suboptimal network equipment in the home to multiple devices (e.g., smart devices, Internet of Things, etc.) accessing the network concurrently. Multiple devices and people sharing the same network resources significantly reduces resources available to students for learning.”

The solution in these cases, according to the report, is education and technical support, which can be provided by the district.

The complete report is available at cosn.org.

See also:

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .