Last week I wrote about the teacher in Spring Valley MN, who does her work at 1am, because that’s when the Internet works for her. Then she wakes up her second grade daughter at 5am to do her work . Not only is that crazy for them – it means the teacher cannot communicate effectively with her students during the school day and the daughter can’t communicate with her teachers. The idea of streamed classes is impossible for them – and therefore likely for the whole class and indeed school.
CNN tells a similar story that I’ll share below. Now is a good time to share these stories because there’s a fix for this problem. As a country, as an industry we know how to expand and improve broadband. I remember talking to Governor Walz at an event related to homelessness. We spoke briefly about broadband and he said – now that’s one we can win. Homelessness is more difficult. Technology alone won’t solve it. It’s the same with COVID-19. We don’t know how to win that one yet. The recommendations are far-reaching, which could indicate that we’re gong to be here a while.
So why not fix one big problem ? Fix broadband. It will take a big check but we can do it. And once we do – these teachers can teach, students can learn, more and more people can work from home. More and more people can watch Netflix from home, which is turns out is the ironically named killer app. So with that in mind, here’s another story from CNN…
Every Sunday since the coronavirus lockdown started, Stephanie Anstey drives 20 minutes from her home in Grottoes, Virginia, to sit in her school’s near-empty parking lot and type away on her laptop.
Anstey, a middle school history teacher, lives in a valley between two mountains, where the only available home internet option is a satellite connection. Her emails can take 30 seconds to load, only to quit mid-message. She can’t even open files on Google Drive, let alone upload lesson modules or get on a Zoom call with colleagues.
“You just have to plan,” Anstey said. “It’s not a Monday through Friday job anymore.”
So Anstey’s new office is in her car in the corner of the parking lot where the WiFi signal is strongest. She comes here when she needs to upload instructional videos, answer emails from students and parents or participate in the occasional video conferencing call. It’s not ideal, she says, but using her slow internet at home is even more frustrating.
Anstey’s predicament casts a new light on a longstanding digital divide that is being made even starker by the coronavirus pandemic.