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A Digital Divide Haunts Schools Adapting to Virus Hurdles

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Abigail Schneider, 8, completes a level of her learning game with assistance from her mother April in her bedroom in Brooklyn, NY.

Home Internet access for students has improved since the onset of the pandemic with help from philanthropy, federal relief funding, and other efforts — but obstacles linger, including a lack of devices, slow speeds, and financial hurdles.

Credit: John Minchillo/Associated Press

Quarantines and school closures have shifted some students back to remote learning, highlighting the digital divide in which lower-income families struggle with sporadic Internet access, a lack of devices, slow speeds, and financial issues.

Studies by Rutgers University found that home Internet access and computer ownership rose significantly from 2015 to 2021.

However, the proportion of lower-income families with unreliable or insufficient Internet access held steady.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center found that about 34% of households earning less than $30,000 annually, and 25% of those earning $30,000 to $50,000, had trouble paying for home Internet, and Black and Latino families were less likely to have home Internet access and computers.

Some school districts are using federal relief money to increase home Internet access. California's Chula Vista Elementary School District, for example, has factored into its budget for the next three years the cost of hotspots and other Internet services.

From Associated Press
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