COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have challenged the very fabric of the U.S. education system, particularly when it comes to providing underserved students with equal access to remote learning capability. Commonly referred to as the “Homework Gap,” a lack of equality in the distribution of internet connectivity, computers, tablets, and other IT services outside of schools – and in student homes –... Read More
- Written by Ken Fletcher
- Published: 22 Sep 2021
COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have challenged the very fabric of the U.S. education system, particularly when it comes to providing underserved students with equal access to remote learning capability. Commonly referred to as the “Homework Gap,” a lack of equality in the distribution of internet connectivity, computers, tablets, and other IT services outside of schools – and in student homes – is the most important hurdle that the U.S. school system needs to overcome.
One challenge facing schools and libraries in these unprecedented times is securing the devices. With ransomware attacks increasing on schools and the addition of more endpoints for teachers and students, connectivity is not the only risk IT administration struggles to solve for the remote learning environments.
A recent USA Today article highlights the dire connectivity problems that schools and libraries face throughout the United States:
- Millions of students can’t connect: Approximately 10 to 16 million students lacked internet connectivity or a computer for remote learning sessions at the beginning of the pandemic. Only about 3 to 4 million of these students have received internet access, and the rest are still unable to attend classes.
- Broadband internet is often unaffordable: Many families can’t afford to purchase a high-speed internet connection. Broadband internet can cost up to $349.95 a month in California and up to $299.95 a month in areas of Alaska, Kentucky, and Virginia.
- No connectivity in rural areas: Rural areas often lack high-speed internet connections.
- Poor quality equipment and infrastructure: District-supplied computers, devices, and connectivity are not always reliable, and schools can’t always provide enough IT support when services and equipment break down.
- Almost half of the largest districts are struggling: 44% of the 25 largest U.S. school districts are still struggling to distribute devices and internet connectivity to students.
- 66% of students need to attend remote sessions: Many schools have reopened, but two-thirds of students are still attending remote sessions for some of their classes.
In an effort to bridge these connectivity-related inequities in the U.S. education system, Congress approved the Emergency Connectivity Fund Program under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Early this year, President Biden signed the Act into law, and in May 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its adoption of the ECF program or emergency connectivity fund.
Overcoming the challenges to student connectivity isn’t going to be easy. However, the allocations of $7.17 billion in ECF funding was a start. The first opportunity for schools to request this funding closed but there were over 2B in funds leftover. The government is opening a second window through USAC to allow schools or libraries who missed their opportunity to apply another chance. The second window will open on September 28th and close on October 13th.
Public schools and libraries should have all the financial support they need to purchase IT services and equipment to bridge the “digital divide” for students, teachers, and library patrons across the United States.
As Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a recent press conference:
- “[The Emergency Connectivity Fund Program] is the largest single effort in the nation’s history to make sure students have access to broadband and devices they need for school. It is going to help close up the homework gap so kids who have been locked out of the virtual classroom can go online for class and do their nightly schoolwork.”
Quarterhorse Technologies has partnered with leading industry manufacturers such as SonicWall. SonicWall security solutions are boundless. Together in partnership we are here to support your organization in determining what technology you need for remote learning classrooms. In addition to securing email communications between the teachers and students on your network. QTI also has experts available to you to assist with applying for funding through the ECF program.
Learn more about Quarterhorse Technologies at or call us today (646) 722-6500 to find solutions that will work best for you.