By: Office of Educational Technology
One of the most critical challenges highlighted by the recent period of emergency remote learning has been providing access to reliable high-speed internet and connected devices to facilitate learning anytime, anywhere. . The data clearly shows that the lack of these essential technologies disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income communities. As schools recover from the pandemic, several federal agencies and the Office of Educational Technology (OET) are stepping up efforts to provide resources to bridge the digital divide.
For learners and families: getinternet.gov
FCCs Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) allows eligible households to reduce their Internet costs by up to $30/month ($75/month on tribal lands). Getinternet.gov is a simple, easy-to-use website with details on how households can register for CPA and find participating providers in their area. Several companies have additionally pledged to offer CPA-eligible families at least one high-speed plan for $30/month or less, with no additional charges and no data caps. This means that if households apply their ACP benefit to one of these plans, they will have no internet outlay.
For schools and districts: tech.ed.gov/ACP
To help schools and districts register for ACP, OET worked with the FCC and USDA to update the OET website with FAQs and resources to make it easier to communicate with families regarding their eligibility for ACP. This includes a sample letter to inform families that their child is receiving free or reduced-price school meals and therefore meets the CPA’s eligibility criteria. The OET also provides a template form that can be used to obtain consent from families to share their child’s eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals with ACP participating providers.
For state and local leaders: internetforall.gov
NTIA’s Internet for All Initiative organizes bipartisan Infrastructure Act funding opportunities aimed at connecting all Americans to high-speed Internet, making Internet access more affordable, and ensuring that all students have access to technology-enabled learning opportunities. As state and local leaders develop plans to implement these funds, education stakeholders can be engaged to ensure that the investments will equitably address the challenges faced by learners, families and communities.
Educators are increasingly taking advantage of the opportunities for active and innovative learning made possible by technology. Schools are also accelerating the implementation of whole learner approaches with technology, including connections to social-emotional supports, parent-educator engagement opportunities, telehealth and telemental health and needs services basic. The above resources can help ensure that these opportunities become equitably and sustainably available to all learners, families and communities.