Internet Access and Learning in America’s Rural Schools

The way technology moves forward often leaves little room for those who prefer to wait. The idea that the fastest adopters take greater risks may hold some truth, but it’s also true that the people who are left in the trough behind the wave usually suffer the most.

Advances in technology create great new opportunities, but it also transfers advantage to those who have the technology and away from those who don’t. This process is at the root of what we call the “digital divide.” When this gap occurs in education, the disadvantage to students on the wrong side of the gap can cause permanent damage.

In America, many rural schools are suffering from a lack of broadband access. According to the FCC, 7 out of 10 rural schools do not reach the bandwidth targets.  Some studies have shown that admission to college is significantly affected by the access to technology students enjoy during their educational process.

A recent by the FCC may do a lot to bring rural schools online. The so-called E-rate funds internet access for schools using fees collected from phone users. The commission voted 3-2 to increase the funding by $1.5 billion.

However, wiring schools is only part of the problem. The digital divide does not just apply to what happens in the classroom, but also to how much access students have at home, when completing homework assignments. Children who go home to a computer with broad-band access to Wikipedia and Google naturally have a huge advantage over those who have slow or no access.

Some schools have found innovative ways to get broadband into the homes of students using parts of the existing E-rate program, though rule changes have made this an uncertain path for everyone.


Further Reading:

Rural schools and the digital divide:


Changing the E-rate:


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