September 20, 2016–FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel today called on local telecom advocates and officials to think of innovative ways to help bridge the “homework gap” that exists in many communities, and said that there should be more support from the federal level of their efforts. Commissioner Rosenworcel explained in her keynote today during the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) annual meeting taking place this week in Austin that seven in 10 teachers assign homework that requires an Internet connection, but one in three households does not have broadband access at home. According to the Commissioner, there are 29 million households in the country with school-age children and five million of them have no Internet access.
The “shared economic future” of the country depends on figuring out how to close this homework gap,” Ms. Rosenworcel said. “Efforts to improve digital equity are taking place locally and people like me in Washington can take a cue from what you do.”
She said that the FCC’s efforts to modernize the Lifeline program and make broadband a supported service will help. “This simple change will bring more broadband to these households with school aged children.” But, “we need to do more,” she said. “And I think that more needs to happen at the local level.”
As an example, Commissioner Rosenworcel pointed to a “creative” solution employed by a school principal in Coachella Valley, Calif., who installed Wi-Fi on school buses to allow students – many who are children of migrant workers and have long bus rides to school – do their homework. The Wi-Fi buses were also parked in the communities where the students lived, she said. She said that federal policies need to support local efforts like the one in Coachella Valley, and suggested the Commission “explore whether the FCC’s E-rate program could support learning on those school buses.”
“As we wrestle with the new challenges of technology, access, and equity, I think local solutions deserve federal support,” she said. “I think by working together we can bridge the homework gap. And if we do we are going to be able to turn all students into … not just digital users, but digital creators.” -Carrie DeLeon, firstname.lastname@example.org