Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Rural schools struggle with lack of broadband

Rural school districts are more likely to hold in-person classes during the pandemic, but many that choose distance learning are having a rough time because of poor or absent broadband connectivity. The lag has led many rural districts to worry that their students will fall behind urban and suburban students.

"This pandemic has shone a glaring light on a lot of inequalities," Kirk Siegler reports for NPR. "The federal government estimates that more than a third of rural America has little or no internet. In numerous recent interviews, educators have told NPR they’re concerned the rural-urban divide will only worsen if kids can’t get online to learn."

Many rural districts have had to get creative, from providing kids with tablets or Chromebooks and sending out buses outfitted with wifi hot spots to delivering paper copies of schoolwork to students who don't have internet or cell phone service at home. "Still, it’s widely held that hot spots aren’t a long-term solution for rural learning, especially since cell service can be spotty, if sometimes non-existent in more rugged areas of the West in particular," Siegler reports.

Some rural leaders have lobbied Congress for a public-works project to build out broadband to rural areas, much like the government paid to bring electricity to rural areas during the 1930s, Siegler reports.

No comments: