I saw this statement from a district leader and wondered what people thought. Agree, disagree, somewhere in between?Ensuring home internet access for every student should be everyone's priority right now. Without it the next few months will have a devastating impact that some of our children may never fully recover from.
"Given the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on American society, [[Company Name]] pledges for the next 60 days to:
This issue long predates our current scenario, but it has served to make it omnipresent for everyone. As we seek to find solutions now that we have the attention of parents, school admins, and policy makers, we need to make sure that we clearly define the issue. The phrase "Internet Access" is OK, but as some have pointed out, misleading. Just as we saw during the ERate modernization efforts, the idea that a school was "connected" wasn't good enough. At that time, we borrowed a phrase from the medical community, "Meaningful Use" when we established the SETDA Broadband Imperative (see bottom) recommendations for schools that were later adopted by the FCC as the national broadband targets for schools. The idea behind Meaningful Use is that the resource (in this case, the Internet connectivity) was actually doing its job. So, a dial up connection to a school was Internet access, but clearly not up to the task, so we recognized the capacity of the circuit was critical to be "right-sized" to the school. Additionally, the driver behind pushing to create the category 2 funding and enable wifi as an allowable expense was that even with a sufficient broadband service, if it couldn't reach the student, it wasn't meaningful. (I say "we" here because at the time I was SETDA Board Chair and on the working group).ERate was not a vehicle for devices for students, so we didn't go there, but it was left as implied that if you are to bring wifi to the classroom, then you need access devices.So, for home connectivity, we (and "we" here are all of you!) need to ensure that policy makers understand that "Internet Access" at home is a combination of 3 critical pieces: 1) An Internet connection sufficient to the task -- enough "speed", 2) Internal Internet access to the device -- likely wifi, and 3) a device adequate to the task for EACH user. In today's scenario, it has magnified that a family with school-aged children very likely needs a device per adult and student because they are frequently accessing an online resource concurrently.To the question of whether or not these next few months will have a devastating impact. The reality is, we've been witnessing this devastating impact for decades. We already know that one of the greatest factors in school and life success is socio-economic status. We've all seen the data. We know that families that are struggling economically have a far greater likelihood to struggle academically. And that in turn has life-long impact. Whether it's access to a library to get books to read to a young child to food insecurity, economics has been the driver. The digital divide/homework gap inequity is primarily driven by this same economic reality, and we've seen generations of students whose lives are forever shaped by the realties of their socio-economic status.In general, as a nation, we've always prioritized economic growth. In some instances, the infrastructure and policy that was developed to support that growth may or may not have had the common good in mind, but they served to improve the common good. The rural Electrification Act of 1936 and the Telecommunications Act of 1934 were two such examples. In our world of edtech, we saw the modernization of the telecom act in 1996 when ERate was born. I hope that policy makers will find a way to recognize that there are a couple industries where we can overlook short-term profit and instead prioritize the common good -- which will lead to far greater economic health in the long run for everyone -- one is education and connectivity (broadband and devices), and the other is healthcare coverage. Both are fundamentally broken, and this pandemic has underscored and magnified the issues for all to see.
For your reference:SETDA Broadband Imperative I (2012)SETDA Broadband Imperative II (2016)SETDA Broadband Imperative III (2019)