When the coronavirus pandemic forced students into remote learning this past spring, many telecommunications companies stepped up to offer free or deeply discounted home broadband access to families who couldn’t afford it. Now, those temporary offers have largely expired — and yet remote learning seems likely to continue in at least some capacity when school resumes this fall.
This raises key questions for K-12 leaders to resolve: How will students from low-income families connect to the internet to learn from home if they can’t attend school physically this fall? What role can school systems play in ensuring home broadband access for all students, given the budget crisis many districts will be facing next year?
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The simplest solution would be for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lift the restrictions barring E-rate recipients from using their networks to extend broadband service into students’ homes. However, this scenario isn’t likely to happen, according to John Harrington, CEO of the consulting firm Funds For Learning (FFL), which helps schools successfully apply for E-rate discounts.