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Alliance for Excellent Education and LEAD Commission Release Analysis Finding Racial, Income, and Rural Inequities in Students' Access to High-Speed Internet Service

Organizations Call on FCC to Modernize and Expand Federal E-Rate Program

WASHINGTON, DC – In advance of this morning’s major announcement from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler on the federal E-rate program, a new report released today by the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission, and authored by Dr. John B. Horrigan, a leading authority on broadband adoption and use, shows that African American, Latino, low-income, and rural students are more likely to be in schools with slow internet access (10 Mbps or less) than their peers and less likely to be in schools with high-speed broadband internet (100 Mbps or more) needed for digital learning.

The report, Schools and Broadband Speeds: An Analysis of Gaps in Access to High-Speed Internet for African American, Latino, Low-Income, and Rural Students, is a first-of-its-kind analysis of students’ access to high-speed broadband along racial, income, and geographic lines.

“These findings make clear how important it is to connect all of our nation’s students to high-speed internet,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia. “Technology access is not just an education issue; it is a global economic issue. Now is the time for the FCC to take the next step in ensuring all students become equally connected.”

Other highlights from the analysis include the following:

  • Students in heavily minority schools are half as likely to be in schools with high-speed internet as students in heavily white schools.
  • Low-income students are twice as likely as affluent students to have slow internet access at their schools.
  • Students in remote rural America are twice as likely as urban/suburban students to have slow internet access at their schools.

The complete report and analysis can be viewed at http://99in5.org/resources/equity/.

To address these inequities, the LEAD Commission and the Alliance have called upon the Federal Communications Commission to take further action in modernizing and expanding the E-rate program to ensure that at least 99 percent of the nation’s students have access to high-speed internet in their schools and libraries within the next five years.

“The analysis findings shine a light on the critical importance of providing students with more access to updated technology regardless of race, income, or zip code,” said LEAD Commissioner and Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media Jim Steyer. “We applaud Chairman Wheeler for committing to close the rural fiber gap to achieve connectivity targets for high-speed internet. We also call on the FCC to close the gaps in access among low-income students and communities of color to bridge the digital divide among all students.”

According to the analysis, 2.75 million low-income students either lack access to high-speed internet or are disproportionately represented among students with slow internet access. Also, students in remote rural areas are half as likely as students in large suburban areas to have access to high-speed internet.

For more information about Schools and Broadband Speeds and the issue as a whole, please visit www.99in5.org.

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