New School Year Highlights Urgency to Close Broadband Gap for America’s Students

Permanent Solutions to Bridge the Digital Divide is Critical to Securing Educational Equity, Opportunity and Success for Young People

As students across the country head back to school, the urgency to close the broadband gap to secure educational equity, opportunity and success for all has never been clearer.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 15 million American students (30 percent of public school attendees) lacked broadband service, a device or both needed to support distance learning at home. That number climbed during the pandemic to as many as 17 million students. As the pandemic took hold in spring of 2020, a reported 29 percent of U.S. students were doing homework on a cellphone while 22 percent had to finish homework on a public Wi-Fi connection because they had no home access, according to Pew Research.

Studies show that students without home access to broadband internet are less likely to plan to attend college, face a digital skills gap equivalent to three years’ worth of schooling and score lower on standardized tests.

In addition, access to affordable, reliable broadband has a direct impact on young Americans’ outlook on life and their confidence in future success, according to a recent survey from the National 4-H Council, the Harris Poll and the 4-H Tech Changemakers coalition.

The survey also found young adults in America believe a lack of broadband internet is continuing to create economic and social inequities in communities across the nation and overwhelmingly support urgent government action to close the digital divide.

According to the survey partners:

“The lack of access has significant effects on the lives of young people, with the survey results demonstrating notable differences in confidence levels between teens with and without access to high-speed internet in areas like graduating from high school (92 percent vs 89 percent), having a successful career (88 percent vs 81 percent), having financial success (85 percent vs 80 percent), and life overall (85 percent vs 74 percent). Unreliable internet access also leads to significant gaps in digital skills, despite widespread agreement among teens that “digital skills will be the key to getting the best jobs for my generation” (73 percent agree).”

We cannot allow these students to fall through the cracks simply because they lack a broadband connection at home.

Congress can take a positive first step toward bridging the digital divide by swiftly passing the bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, which includes a $65 billion down payment on tackling this challenge, into law. Lawmakers must also build on the unprecedented momentum for action by advancing additional, permanent solutions to ensure every student in America, regardless of zip code, has access to an affordable, reliable internet connection and the digital opportunity it supports.

Read more on how the bipartisan infrastructure package will help expand broadband access HERE.

Learn more about solutions to permanently close the broadband gap HERE.

Read more on CAN and our mission HERE.


Join our fight to bring broadband to all rural Americans. Tell Washington to take action to bridge the digital divide now!