Without Internet Access, Our Most Vulnerable Children Are Locked Outside the Digital Schoolhouse Door (educationpost.org)

 

Internet access is an essential public utility. However, in most cases it is privately owned, and those owners can set the terms of use. This reality has left millions of America’s most vulnerable students outside the digital schoolhouse door. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the power to regulate these companies, but so far has played castrato, in this operatic tragedy. 

A recent article on the Philadelphia schools system’s herculean effort to provide 81,000 Chromebooks to children only to discover that internet providers would not let them online is emblematic of things to come.

We already know that families were going hungry and struggled to pay bills even before COVID-19. It is worse now and it will stay this way for many underserved families. They will be the ones who are locked outside the virtual schoolhouse door, unable to pay the fees and relegated to being a “digital untouchable.”

The solution should not depend on every city organizing against every broadband provider. It is a universal problem that requires universal action. That is where the FCC can and should step in.

Its mission is to “regulate interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.”

And they list their first strategic priority as closing the digital divide

Develop a regulatory environment to encourage the private sector to build, maintain and upgrade next-generation networks so that the benefits of advanced communications services are available to all Americans. Where the business case for infrastructure investment doesn’t exist, employ effective and efficient means to facilitate deployment and access to affordable broadband in all areas of the country.

To read more of Dirk Tillotson's article,  please click here.

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