Teachers increasingly give assignments that require online access, a task that’s becoming ever more difficult for scores of students from low-income families.
How big is this problem? The Pew Research Center estimated last year that about 5 million households with school-age children can’t afford Internet service. Not having broadband at home creates a so-called “homework gap,” which the researchers say disproportionately affects Black and Latino children.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obamaannounced ConnectALL, an initiative to enable all Americans to afford broadband. It seeks to eliminated the digital divide—an ongoing problem that captures the public’s attention from time-to-time.
In a recent article, the New York Times shined a spotlight on the issue. The paper told the story of a sister and brother—Isabella and Tony Ruiz—who routinely stand outside an elementary school near their home to use its wireless hot spot.
With their parents struggling to make ends meet, Isabella, 11, and her 12-year-old brother don’t have Internet service at home. By standing outside the school building, Isabella was able to watch her teacher’s math guide on the family’s mobile phone.
The article drew a Facebook comment from President Obama:
“All of America’s students should be able to get online, no matter where they live or how much their parents make.”
Mr. Obama said his initiative could help the siblings and the millions of other students trapped in the homework gap. His ambitious plan seeks to connect 20 million unconnected Americans to the Internet by 2020.
The president said he submitted a recommendation to the Federal Communications Commission that would update a 1980s telephone subsidy.
According to the New York Times, it would give low-income families a $9.25 per month subsidy to help pay for broadband service.
President Obama also called on the business community, non-profits, tech experts, as well as state and local governments, to join the effort.