CoSN and the Alliance for Excellent Education today issued two complementary resources for school leaders to advance digital equity and increase broadband connectivity to students nationwide.
Advancing Digital Equity and Closing the Homework Gap details the current state of broadband access, its adoption, and its barriers in U.S. communities. The second brief, Advancing Digital Equity: An Update on the FCC’s Lifeline Program, recaps efforts to modernize the Lifeline Program, explains how these changes are at risk, and puts forth ways school leaders can stand up for the program and its positive impact on learning.
“High-quality broadband access at home is becoming the backbone of engaging, modern learning environments. Unfortunately, far too many students and their families do not have this connectivity and are falling behind,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “The digital divide is too big and there is too much at stake for America’s students if we do not tackle this challenge. It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ effort, locally and nationally.”
“In an information-age economy, learning does not begin and end at the school door,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Teachers are increasingly turning to technology to deliver real-world content and ensure that students stay engaged with the learning process in school and at home. Rather than undercutting the program, the FCC should fully implement the modernization of Lifeline and ensure that all children have access to ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning.”
In the briefs, the groups underscore current data that paint the picture of broadband access and its implications:
  • The Pew Research Center found that 5 million households with school-age children do not have broadband access. Low-income families make up a heavy share of those households.
  • According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 42 percent of teachers reported that their students lack sufficient access to technology outside of the classroom.
  • Results from CoSN’s 2016 Annual Infrastructure Survey show that 75 percent of district technology leaders ranked addressing the lack of broadband access outside of school as a “very important” or “important” issue for their district to address.
  • In the same survey, 68 percent of respondents reported that affordability is the greatest barrier to out-of-school broadband access.
Over time, the Lifeline Program has provided critical support for underserved Americans to help improve these trends. In March 2016, the FCC approved updates to the Lifeline Program that would expand it to include broadband service; require providers to offer devices that are WiFi and hotspot enabled; and add a new process for other broadband providers to join the program.
However, recent actions under new FCC leadership have limited the program’s expansion and jeopardized implementation of the program’s changes. CoSN and the Alliance encourage school leaders to not only urge federal modernization efforts but also to take steps on the state-level to increase connectivity. These steps include: creating a legal framework that includes “broadband-only” options for providers; offering state-level subsidies to Lifeline-eligible households; and collaborating with other states and the federal government.
Visit here to read both resources.
Learn more about CoSN’s leadership on digital equity here