The problem of digital equity in US public school systems has been wrestled with for decades. Maybe it took a global pandemic to finally solve it. The analyst group Funds For Learning crunched the numbers last week and breaks down how much it will cost to put an Internet-connected device into the hands of every American student that needs one:
There are 7.15 million families in the United States without Internet access who are unable to attend remote classes. Millions of K‐12 students are falling behind because they are cut off from their teachers and educational resources. $7.5 billion could significantly address this gap:
- $4.29 billion for off‐campus Internet connections.
- $1.79 billion for connected learning devices, such as laptops.
- $1.46 billion for cybersecurity to keep networks up and running.
Congress and the FCC can take action to get those students connected to the Internet and into online school now, and in the years to come. By leveraging the existing E‐rate funding program, Congress could provide $5.25 billion in support to help schools and libraries connect the students who need it the most. This financial aid would be focused on the goods and services necessary to keep students and teachers connected to the Internet when they are at home. The remaining $2.29 billion would be paid by schools and libraries with funding from other sources.
The whitepaper may be downloaded here.