We’ve been sounding the alarm about how dire students’ internet access problems are in this country throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we wish we had better news to share with you today on that front. 

Unfortunately, according to a new report, fully 16.9 million children in the U.S. lack proper internet access to get online for remote schooling during the pandemic. 


Unsurprisingly, the effects of this lack of access fall disproportionately on Black, Latinx and Native families. The report—a collaboration between the Alliance for Excellent Education, National Urban League, UnidosUS and the National Indian Education Association—shows that nearly a third of Black, Latinx and Native families are without access, compared to only 21% of white families.

These numbers come on the heels of a recent report by Common Sense Media that showed 15 million students lack sufficient access to even regularly attend and participate in school. That’s nearly 30% of the nation’s students! Back at the beginning of the coronavirus’ disruption to U.S. life, the best estimates we had on this student population figured their number to be around 12 million. That situation was enough of an emergency that we launched a petition to the FCC to provide all families, regardless of income, access to the internet throughout the pandemic.


Now, we know the situation is even worse than we previously thought, and the urgency is renewed with the next pandemic-stricken school year quickly approaching.

The implications here are dire. As the Education Commission of the States shares in a new report, we have to simultaneously solve two huge problems, one rural and one urban. Rural areas need to be wired for broadband internet, period. Urban areas typically already have widely available broadband, but it must be brought down to affordable levels. 

This is not an impossible problem. It’s solvable. Pressure the FCC and our local and state leadership to work together to solve it. 

To find out how we got here and how we can fix it, tune into “Access Denied” on the Citizen Ed Facebook Live page, where host Dirk Tillotson speaks with experts on how to get kids wired to the internet for learning in this unprecedented time.


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