3 Methods of Broadband Expansion#Technology
12 million children in the U.S. lack the internet access or devices they need to participate in remote learning. This disparity has only become more apparent—and devastating—amid the pandemic.
Are you looking to light up the dark? Here are three methods you can use to help close the connectivity gap in your district community.
1) Federal supportLawmakers aren’t deaf to educators’ pleas for help. That's why it’s important to stay up on the politics of education initiatives and maximize the funds given.
The latest: At the close of 2020, the COVID relief package allocated $7 billion to broadband, some of which is going toward increasing internet service for families with low incomes, rural addresses, and homes on Tribal lands. Families with low incomes or rural address are eligible for up to a $50-per-month discount and families on Tribal lands up to $75. In addition, eligible households can receive up to $100 to help cover the cost of technology, including laptops, desktops, and tablets.
2) Connectivity conversationsSince the broadband funding isn’t directly going to schools, it may require some extra steps to help the students in need at your district. Here are a handful of ways you can connect them with resources.
Spread the word.Make sure families at your district know what they’re eligible for and how to take advantage of it. That’s not to say you need to send all the details out yourself, though; many communities already offer services to connect families with resources. Point families in their direction.
Inform families of the available providers.Put together information on broadband providers in your area: companies that are available, companies that reach rural areas, and ballpark prices. Again, families need to do the legwork to make connection possible, but you can step in to guide them in the right direction.
Pair families with the right technology.Help deserving families make the most of their technology stipend by compiling some information on budget-friendly computer technology. Ask your IT professionals for recommendations on brands or models. Their advice is invaluable for families.
Make an expert available.Politics, finance, and technology don't come naturally to everyone—stressed grown-ups might have questions and be unsure where to turn. If someone on staff can be your “COVID relief expert,” provide that person’s contact information to families, and take note of their willingness to lead.
3) DIY ISPDesperate times don’t always call for desperate measures. Sometimes what they require is a little creativity.
Some schools are taking the matter of broadband connectivity into their own hands. One district in Utah, for example, is putting the finishing touches on its very own LTE network—the first of its kind. The district’s 44 towers, combined with hotspots, other receivers, and district Chromebooks, will ensure that all 6,000 students will be online, regardless of economic circumstances.
This is innovation in education at its finest. Of course, this kind of pioneering isn’t practical for every district; but ask, what is practical for your district? Think it over, hash it out, and chase it down.
Bonus: E-rateSince the pandemic began, educators have been pushing for E-rate to expand to include home internet. As of now, we’re still waiting, but it’s good to keep bringing it up. By spreading awareness of the program and its impact, maybe in the near future we can see even greater progress toward bridging the broadband connectivity gap.
Let's take a moment to acknowledge the superhuman energy it takes to continue pushing for broadband access for all. Every step forward is progress. Our hats are off to you, and we'll continue working together until access is universal.
Follow-up resource: Design thinking solves big challengesLearn how to rewire your brain to innovate.
|Caroline Gilchrist Edtech Thought Leader|