Arlington, Virgina — September 15, 2020 — NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association announced today that it is collaborating with Digital Bridge K-12 to help rural broadband providers and school districts across the country work together to make sure that every student who has an Internet connection at home can make good use of it this school year.
By the end of the 2019/20 school year, about 55 million American students and teachers had been affected by COVID-19 related school closures, forced to quickly adapt to distance learning and transition their curriculums online. As school districts prepare for remote learning from the start or as part of contingency planning, a significant barrier remains in that too many students do not have reliable internet connectivity at home.
In many cases, however, the problem is not the availability of service; rather, customers may not be buying service that is available because they cannot afford it or for other reasons. By committing to a set of principles, NTCA member broadband providers who join the partnership program can express their interest in working with local school systems, who will take on bulk procurement of home Internet access for those students living in homes that do not already purchase such services. NTCA is promoting the partnership program to its members, and Digital Bridge K-12 is sharing contact information for providers through a lookup tool on its website for school systems.
“Like so many things, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to ensuring every student is connected,” said NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield. “But we believe solutions start by having schools and broadband providers simply talk with each other at a local level. As ‘hometown providers’ who live and raise families in the areas they serve, our members have a unique opportunity to lead rural communities in solving this issue.”
More information about the program is available here.