Reliable internet access
Although I’m graduating from high school this year, I still vividly remember being sent home from school in March 2020 when the pandemic came to Virginia. As my classmates and I struggled through virtual learning, I was grateful that I had reliable, quick internet service.
It was absolutely essential for my successful junior year. In fact, The Pew Research Center found 53% of Americans said the internet was essential during COVID-19.
However, I recognize not all students were so fortunate. The Federal Communications Commission estimates at least 6% of Americans lack reliable broadband service and 25% of rural residents lack access.
The pandemic exposed deep inequities in students’ access to technology that enables virtual learning. Low-income children in particular faced obstacles, with 29% having to do schoolwork on cellphones, 22% using public Wi-Fi and 21% unable to complete schoolwork at all, according to Pew.
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With President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, Virginia will see billions of dollars invested to bring speedy, reliable, inexpensive internet service to more people — not as a luxury but as a basic necessity in the digital age. As a community, there are many ways to support others who need access to the internet.
We can support legislators, such as Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, and Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, each of whom voted for the infrastructure bill.
The U.S. Commerce Department has launched a billion-dollar “Internet for All” initiative. We can call on state and local officials to apply for grants, and develop infrastructure that will bring service to underserved areas.
Finally, we can patronize companies participating in the government’s efforts to make internet service cheaper, faster and more reliable.