Nearly three million students nationwide don’t have access to the internet. In fact, some states like Alabama, Wisconsin and South Carolina use portable Wi-Fi buses to bring connectivity to families.
One elected official is aware of this problem and now, more than ever with virtual learning, needs it resolved.
On Friday, Councilman Fernando Cabrera submitted legislation calling on the MTA and New York City Transit to locate Wi-Fi enabled buses in low income neighborhoods where few people have internet access.
“We’ve always known we have a digital divide,” Cabrera said. “But the COVID-19 pandemic has made it glaringly clear just how bad it is, as the DOE has tried to roll out remote learning and so many families can’t access the Internet.”
Cabrera’s legislation is based on models being used in school districts in several states.
Last week, when the Department of Education began its rollout of online learning after school closings, the lack of internet access, particularly in the city’s hundreds of family shelters highlighted the inability of children in low income and homeless families to complete their online assignments.
This should not be the case. In this digital age no one should be without internet access, especially if they are required to learn from home, he said. Someone dropped the ball getting students ready and it’s time for this to be fixed, he stressed.
“We know that access to broadband is tied to income,” Cabrera said. “It should not have been any surprise to us that kids without this access are now trying to do their school work on a parent’s phone. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the fall with the coronavirus. We need to have something that will bridge us and prepare the kids.”
This follows up on the councilman’s request last week for the Department of Education (DOE) to immediately distribute all working surplus laptops and tablets to students in need.
He told the Bronx Times, whether it is a school bus with a router, or an MTA bus, which is already Wi-Fi ready, poor areas of the Bronx need these buses as soon as possible.
“I think this is a viable way to deal with this issue that a lot of students are facing,” the councilman commented.
He noted not having Wi-Fi access affects more than just their education. People are quarantined and the internet allows them to communicate via email, social media, Skype and Zoom. Now, imagine if this wasn’t feasible, people will get depressed and isolated, he said.
Cabrera hopes the government agencies heed his request.
“If we have Wi-Fi people could feel connected,” he explained. “There’s a lack of foresight by the BOE.”