Opinion
Classroom Technology Opinion

High-Speed Broadband Access Is Critical to Success of All Students

By Jared Polis & Chris Gibson — February 18, 2014 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Digital learning is no longer the future of education: It is happening right now in schools across our nation. Bringing broadband access to low-income schools and libraries nationwide is an issue that we both feel passionate about. It is an investment not only in the future of our students, but also in our economy and our global competitiveness. Interactive online learning offers an opportunity to provide every child with a highly personalized, equitable, and excellent education. But if we fail to level the digital playing field, the education gap between those with broadband access and those without will only grow wider.

Historically, and far too often in the traditional American classroom, if a student fell behind, it was understood that he or she just wasn’t cut out for school. Interactive digital education offers personalized pacing and coursework to challenge every student, in their own time, whether they are behind or ahead of grade level.

If our children are going to compete in the 21st-century global workforce, we must educate them differently from the way we did in the 19th century. Instead of telling students to “power off” when they enter the classroom, we should integrate technology into lessons where it can be used effectively to engage and motivate students.

Yet there are too many instances when technology is unavailable or underutilized in classrooms because of a lack of training, tools, and broadband access. If we truly expect teachers to teach the skills students need to succeed tomorrow, we can’t equip them with the tools of yesterday. Congress recognized the importance of technology to the nation’s education system in a bipartisan way when it created the E-rate program in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

There are too many instances when technology is unavailable or underutilized in classrooms because of a lack of training, tools, and broadband access.”

Administered by the Federal Communications Commission, E-rate has been enormously successful in bringing basic telephone and Internet access to classrooms and schools. However, the connectivity provided is no longer sufficient. According to data from the FCC, half the schools and libraries that apply for support from the program have Internet connections slower than the average American home. Without adequate broadband connections, even the best-equipped schools struggle to realize the promise of digital learning.

Ensuring that our students have broadband access to meet our nation’s goals is not a partisan issue, it is a national responsibility. It is a collective goal that our schools, teachers, libraries, and Internet providers are all pushing for, and it is one that is achievable. That’s why we, along with 24 of our congressional colleagues, sent a bipartisan letter in December of last year to the FCC urging swift action to expand and modernize the E-rate program.

This critical update will help ensure that every school has the ability to accelerate next-generation education reforms, support teachers, and enhance student learning. This is an important step toward providing our children with high-quality digital learning opportunities to improve their academic outcomes and prepare them for success in a modern economy.

We are delighted that the FCC has taken the first step in answering our call for swift action, with its announcement earlier this month that it will prioritize existing funding for high-speed Internet connections in schools and libraries. This $2 billion increase in funding is a critical down payment. It is a step in the right direction toward making the program more efficient and effective, while recognizing the urgency of reform. We applaud the FCC for finding these funds from savings within the E-rate program and using them to help meet today’s needs.

We simply cannot prepare our kids to compete for 21st-century jobs by leaving them stranded with technologies from the last century. In an age when high-speed broadband is transforming almost every aspect of our lives, surely we can’t ignore one of its most important uses. We must extend digital opportunities to every classroom.

We look forward to working with the FCC and our colleagues from both sides of the aisle in Congress in a bipartisan manner to modernize and expand the E-rate program, bringing transformative learning opportunities to every school in America.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 19, 2014 edition of Education Week as Broadband Access Is Critical

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok Make Teachers' Jobs More Difficult and Dangerous, Union Says
Social media spreads misinformation and emboldens students to damage school property, the National Education Association says.
2 min read
Image of hands on a keyboard with social media icons popping up.
Urupong/iStock/Getty
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Whitepaper
Using Emerging Technologies to Support Educators and Engage Students
This paper focuses on the launch of a next-generation K-12 online education portal, Verizon Innovative Learning HQ, to support educators ...
Content provided by Verizon
Classroom Technology Combating the Problems With Facebook and Instagram: 8 Tips for Teachers
Facebook did extensive research on its negative impact on children’s mental health, but didn't act on those findings, a whistleblower says.
5 min read
Image of a child's hand on a keyboard.
kiankhoon/IStock/Getty
Classroom Technology Q&A How Much Screen Time Is Too Much? The Answer Is 'It Depends'
Educators need to consider the context, the content, and the individual child when deciding how much screen time kids should have.
4 min read
High school students in Coral Gables, Fla., work together on a tablet during a history class.
High school students in Coral Gables, Fla., work together on a tablet during a history class last school year.
Josh Richie for Education Week