North Texas Daily

Internet access should be a right not a privilege

Internet access should be a right not a privilege

Internet access should be a right not a privilege
September 07
19:25 2020

As schools all over the country have made the transition to remote learning in the midst of COVID-19, officials are still reluctant to acknowledge access to internet should be regarded as a human right. With a developing economic crisis, internet costs are not an expense many Americans can afford but are necessary for remote learning or work.

With schools opening up in mid-August there has been an increase in news articles talking about how some students have to sit in their local McDonald’s or Taco Bell parking lot just to use the free internet so they can complete their schoolwork. Many people have also begun to use the hotspots on their phones to afford internet.

However, this issue is not something new, nearly one in five students have struggled to complete assignments due to lack of internet access as early as 2013. Due to this issue, some schools have been hesitant to resume virtual learning.

According to a federal study, 14 percent of families who have school age children do not have access to internet and those who do typically do not have high speed broadband. The majority of these families are making under 50 thousand dollars a year and live in rural areas. School districts have tried to ease the financial burden by providing laptops, but what good is a laptop if it cannot connect to the internet?

While some families are struggling to pay their bills, others are erecting whole classrooms in their homes to make the virtual learning experience more real. Lately, these “at home classrooms” have become a trend on social media consisting of parents posting their child’s “classroom.” With the increasing demand for school and classroom supplies many parents are finding it hard to create these spaces because of the lack of products available in stores.

Wealth inequality is nothing new in the education system. For decades, districts have struggled with underfunding and being unable to provide resources for their students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, high poverty districts spend about 15.6% less per student than low poverty districts. Now in the midst of a pandemic these underfunded districts are struggling to provide resources and educate their students without putting their health at risk.

Despite 57 cities in the United States having free Wi-Fi for residents, it simply isn’t enough. Municipal Wi-Fi is often focused in metropolitan areas isolating rural residents who need internet access as well. Some internet providers have waived their late fees and increased data caps. Comcast initiated its ‘Internet Essentials’ program to provide internet for low-income families which provides free internet for 60 days. While these initiatives are helpful, they provide a short-term solution.

Some school districts have recognized virtual learning is not a viable option for everyone and have utilized other methods to promote remote learning. A school district in Los Angeles partnered with a local PBS station to broadcast shows and documentaries students can watch. Other districts have opted to forego any type of online instruction and are distributing paper materials.

If students are expected to continue their education virtually, they should be properly equipped to do so. In 2020, virtually nothing is accomplished without access to internet. If school districts and law makers truly care about students in low-income households and believe everyone has a right to education, they should also believe in the right to internet access.

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

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Meghana Vadlamani

Meghana Vadlamani

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