Ed-Tech Policy

‘Homework Gap’ for Hispanics Targeted in New Broadband-Awareness Initiative

By Benjamin Herold — August 11, 2015 3 min read
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Media company Univision Communications and influential nonprofit Common Sense Media are teaming up to promote expanded broadband access and safe Internet usage among Hispanic-American families.

The move offers another sign that the so-called “homework gap,” between students who have affordable high-speed broadband at home and those who do not, is emerging as a significant ed-tech policy issue.

“This campaign will help to ensure that Hispanic students have the tools to succeed in school, on their way to becoming the workforce of tomorrow,” said a statement from Randy Falco, the president and CEO of Univision, home to the most-watched Spanish-language television broadcast network in the United States, as well as a host of other TV channels, radio stations, and websites.

The campaign’s goals are to provide parents with information and encouragement to get broadband access at home, help families find service and hardware at the best rates, and provide guidelines for responsible Internet usage.

Univision says it will run public-service announcements, conduct outreach and parent workshops, and conduct social media campaigns, among other strategies.

According to an April 2015 analysis of 2013 American Community Survey data by the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of Hispanic households with school-age children have a high-speed connection at home, compared to 88 percent for whites and 92 percent for Asians (72 percent of Black households with school-age children also had a high-speed connection at home.)

Within each racial and ethnic group, the report also found big class differences: 55 percent of Hispanic households with school-age children and an annual income of under $25,000 had a home high-speed connection, compared to 82 percent of those Hispanic households earning between $50,000 and $99,999 per year.

The new effort by Univision and Common Sense Media comes as the Federal Communications Commission, school-technology advocacy groups, and others seek to focus attention on many students’ lack of access to reliable Internet at home.

Speaking at the annual conference of the International Society for Technology in Education, held earlier this summer in Philadelphia, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, cited research suggesting that 70 percent of teachers assign homework requiring online access.

“The ‘homework gap’ is the cruelest part of our new digital divide,” Rosenworcel said at the conference.

The FCC is currently accepting public comments on a proposal that would overhaul the federal ‘Lifeline’ program, which currently subsidizes phone service to low-incomes households, to also include broadband service.

In May, U.S. Senators also introduced a bill that would approve a new competitive federal grant program that would seek to identify and expand “innovative broadband access programs that are popping up around the country.”

Dubbed ¡Avanzamos Connectados! (Connected, We Advance!), the new broadband-awareness campaign will also include tools to help parents use mobile devices to find discounted broadband and computer services in their areas, as well as safe Internet usage tips from Common Sense Media.

“We are extremely proud to partner with Univision to provide families with the information they need to help their kids take advantage of all that technology has to offer, while helping them make safe and smart decisions along the way,” said James Steyer, the San Francisco-based nonprofit’s CEO, in a statement.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.