COVID-19 Exposes Digital Divide for Students

With an estimated 7 million school-age children living without home Internet service, the actions being taken country wide against the coronavirus drive home the impact of the digital divide and broadband inequity in the United States.

Although plans across America are being handled differently and indivudally, there are more and more news stories surrounding school districts closing and offering online classes in order to slow or stop the COVID-19 virus from spreading. This is cause for concern in households where home internet access is limited or not available.

Schools in Washington State have reported implementing distance learning programs for up to three weeks. To combat inequity and the digital divide, some school districts have offered to buy and deliver devices to students so they are able to continue their education.

Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel pointed to legislative efforts led by Senator Chris Van Hollen that could potentially help by allocating money to increasing broadband for school kids. Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) urged FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to consider temporary measures the agency could deploy to support in-home connectivity for students if remote schoolwork becomes necessary.