When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, approximately 9.7 million students across the country did not have a broadband internet connection at home. For these students, distance learning was going to be a challenge.
In response, public, private, and philanthropic organizations partnered to launch distance learning initiatives all across the country — comprehensive efforts to provide no-cost, high-speed internet to students in need and their families.
In Chicago, Illinois, where 70% of public school students qualify for free or reduced meals, as many as 100,000 students' households could be connected to the internet through one of these partnerships, with an emphasis on closing the digital divide in South and West Side neighborhoods that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
In Fargo, North Dakota, a partnership with the local internet provider meant that Superintendent Dr. Rupak Ghandi could help connect every family in his 11,000+ student district to a high-speed internet connection at home by the time remote instruction began in the fall. It even meant expanding coverage to the more rural communities about 10 miles outside of the city.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a single mother had dropped out of her nursing program when the public school system closed and she had to care for her two boys. When the Tulsa Internet Access Task Force, a public-private partnership, provided free internet service to low-income students' families, not only were her boys able to continue their education from home, but she was able to re-enroll in her nursing program and complete her degree remotely.
And in Connecticut, the Everybody Learns initiative helped 60,000 students across both urban and rural areas in the state continue their education from the safety of their homes.
These partnerships have already had an incredible impact in every corner of America and, today, thousands of schools are participating — from small districts in states like Oregon and Kansas to massive city districts like those in Chicago and New Orleans.
But across the country, millions more students and their families continue to struggle in education, employment, and daily life without high-speed internet. With your support, we can encourage more widespread adoption of these programs and provide a path forward for school districts and their partners to connect students in need.