School supply lists tend to include the same items year after year, such as pencils, notebooks, and textbooks. If students can’t afford to buy these supplies, teachers often provide supplies for students, allowing students from all socioeconomic backgrounds to receive a quality education. In recent years, however, a new supply has joined the list: Internet access. Nowadays, most schools incorporate Internet into their curriculums and expect students to have access at home. Unlike pens and paper, however, teachers cannot buy Internet access for their low-income students and students from rural areas. To help bridge this digital divide and homework gap, many schools are finding ways to increase Wi-Fi access.
One such initiative is Wi-Fi on Wheels — a program outfitting school buses with Wi-Fi routers. Coachella Valley Unified School District in California, the second-poorest school district in the nation, was an early adopter of the program. Many students in this district live in trailer parks and remote communities without Wi-Fi access. Now, not only can students work on homework assignments on the school buses, but they also have Wi-Fi access at home. Drivers park the buses in underserved communities at night to ensure the learning never stops.
There are other schools across the country offering similar Wi-Fi programs, but more needs to be done to increase Wi-Fi access for students. When students lack a reliable Wi-Fi connection at home, it erases the benefits of giving them iPads or laptops. Students without Wi-Fi lag behind their fellow classmates who have online resources at their fingertips.
Giving students more Wi-Fi access is increasingly important as more aspects of their education rely on an Internet connection. Students use the Internet to complete homework assignments, email their teachers, complete scholarships, and apply to college. While public libraries are an incredible resource for students who don’t have Wi-Fi access at home, not all students live within walking distance of their local public library. Putting Wi-Fi routers on school buses is an important step in the fight to help bridge the digital divide and homework gap.
However, bringing Wi-Fi to underserved communities is only part of the battle. We must urge policymakers to make more unlicensed spectrum available, which Wi-Fi runs, to continue democratizing Internet access. More unlicensed spectrum means a faster, more reliable connection. For some students, it could be the difference between turning a homework assignment in on time and being too late.
Wi-Fi and unlicensed spectrum is helping students learn even when they aren’t in class. Click here to show your support!