3 Google Fiber programs that could help ease the digital divide

Google’s affordable broadband service is already impacting some communities and schools

The latest Digital Equity report from the Consortium of School Networking paints a picture of an educational environment where schools are at least on the right path to providing access to high-speed wi-fi within their walls (though there is still plenty of work to be done). An equally pressing problem is the fact that the number of pupils with fast connectivity dwindles as they move away from their K-12 hubs—and the divide deepens even further when issues like socioeconomic status, income, and race are taken into account.

According to The Pew Research Center, 82.5 percent of American households with school-age children currently have broadband access at home. This is approximately 9 percentage points higher than the broadband adoption rates across all households, CoSN reports, but there are still 5 million households with school-age children which lack broadband in the home.

“Students in these households experience what is being labeled the ‘homework gap,’” reported CoSN, pointing out that more than 75 percent of school district technology leaders have no strategy for addressing off-campus access.

As new pedagogies like blended and flipped learning gain in popularity in the K-12 space, the need for high-speed at home has grown exponentially. In some U.S. cities, Google Fiber, which provides an internet connection speed of up to one gigabit per second (1,000 Mbit/s), is attempting to reduce the size of the homework gap. Key cities where the service is currently available include Kansas City, Mo.; Salt Lake City; and Austin.

“Google Fiber offers a wonderful data package to its home subscribers. I have it at my home in Lees Summit and it has met my every expectation,” said Thomas Brenneman, executive director of technology at Kansas City Public Schools, which has had access to Google Fiber since 2012 and is currently implementing Google Classroom and a Chromebook initiative in its high schools. “I am also pleased to see that Google is offering data drops to homes in the urban core. This will certainly help diminish the data divide that we face today.”

Google’s strategy

A spokesperson for Google provided background on—but would not speak on the record about—three programs that are impacting (or that could impact) the K-12 community: ConnectHome , the Community Leaders Program (CLP) , and the Create Your World (CYW) program.

Next page: A rundown of 3 Google Fiber programs

[image via ramseymohsen/flickr]

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