This non-profit organization was ready for sunset. Now It’s Back – with a new mission for student internet access.

Two years ago, the Education Super Highway was about to hang its worldly hat. The nonprofit says it has achieved its goal of ensuring that 99 percent of U.S. schools are connected to high-speed Internet, a boon for digital education. Founder and CEO Evan Marvel was looking forward to the holiday after leading the organization for eight years.

But then – as we all know – the epidemic spread everywhere.

“My phone rang and people in DC were calling, calling the governor’s office. That’s what he was saying, “Marvel recalls. “We don’t know how much [our students] Have internet or how to connect it.

EducationSuperHighway developed a tool for this Help schools identify students who do not have Internet access Learned a lot about digital divisions at home and, in the process. Instead of closing the store, the organization is launching a new campaign that focuses not on schools but on 18.1 million US households where the cost of connecting is the primary hurdle. His plans to reach that goal are outlined in a new report “No Home Left Offline: Reducing the Broadband Affordable Gap.”

“Despite the historical story of building infrastructure in rural America, two-thirds of the digital divide was that people could not afford the broadband connections offered in their homes,” says Marvel. “We saw that this is a problem that can actually be solved, but it needs to be addressed in the same way as efforts to connect all schools.”

Broadband affordability is the largest part of the digital divide across 43 states, according to a report by EducationSuperHighways.
Source: EducationSuperHighway

Who is affected?

Solving broadband affordability is going to take everyone, Marvel says, from Capitol Hill legislators who control federal purse strings to school districts that are in the best position to identify students who need Internet access. But now is the time to act, when the epidemic has revealed how deeply the digital divide affects those who are not connected at home, he argues.

“Our country felt we were all bad when 80 million Americans didn’t have access to the Internet,” says Marvel. “We will never have more political will or power to solve this problem. If we don’t fix it now, I don’t know when we will. ”

In his report, EducationSuperHighway identified unrelated communities where at least one in four households lacked broadband.

Black and Latino communities are heterogeneously affected. African Americans make up 13.4 percent of the national population but 21.1 percent of families belong to unrelated communities. The gap is even wider for Latinos, who make up 18.5 percent of the national population, but 27.6 percent are unrelated communities.

In the education component, too. People with less than a high school diploma represent 27.4 percent of unrelated families, compared to only 13.3 percent for those with a high school diploma and 4.5 percent with families with a bachelor’s degree or higher degree, according to the report.

“Families in the most unconnected communities in the U.S. and those with less than a high school education are precisely those who need broadband connections to find good jobs, educate their children, connect to affordable healthcare, and access the social safety net,” the report said. .

Bar tables show the percentage of digital partitions.
Source: EducationSuperHighway

Going beyond consciousness

Education Super Highway officials said in a report that creating awareness about low- and low-cost broadband programs is part of the solution. More than 6 million people have used Emergency Broadband Benefit, which offers a monthly 50 discount for any Internet service provider. Marvel says, it sounds like a lot of participants, unless you compare it to the 37 million people who deserve it.

But it will take longer than awareness to get people on board. They believe the program will help them and they need guidance on how to register.

“One of the things we’ve really learned: trust is a big issue,” says Marvel. “People think, ‘It’s a good thing it’s true. Will you give me free internet? You have to catch one. ‘

Families need help navigating the sign-up process which can be confusing or overwhelming. The Education Superhighway report highlights the success of the Clark County School District, which serves the Las Vegas area. The district identified students without Internet access, reached those homes directly, and set up a gatekeeper center to help people sign up with a local Internet service provider. Marvel says the strategy has resulted in more than 80 percent of students being connected to the Internet from home.

“I heard the other day about a district that had 3,000 codes for free internet service and 76 families took it,” says Marvel. “You can’t just do general marketing.”

Scaling up

Have you ever noticed how you don’t have to convince people to use Wi-Fi in a coffee shop or hotel?

EducationSuperHive has realized that part of its strategy to reduce affordability is to get free Wi-Fi in multi-family homes. According to its report, it is estimated that up to 25 per cent of digital partitions can be turned off by offering free Wi-Fi in low-income apartment buildings. Funding for such programs alone will be covered by the $ 42.5 billion broadband infrastructure that is part of the federal infrastructure bill that has yet to be passed.

Marvel says the nonprofit is already working on an experimental basis for the Apartment Wi-Fi program in Oakland, California, where Education Super Highway aims to connect 5,400 homes in 127 apartment buildings to the Internet. These three school districts are also running a pilot program with several cities and housing authorities preparing to launch broadband adoption campaigns.

“We are using that pilot to complete the program [and] Understand what the right steps are. ” Says Marvel. “It’s the job for the next 18 months, to set the stage for a large crowd.”

In many ways, the nonprofit is facing an even bigger problem than when it was founded, Marvel says. Its original goal is to provide high-speed Internet access to approximately 100,000 schools. It now focuses on more than 18 million families — about 47 million people.

This also puts Kibosh well on any of Marvel’s subbatic plans. Maybe in another eight years.

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