By: Office of Educational Technology
One of the most critical challenges illuminated by the recent period of emergency remote learning has been providing access to reliable, high-speed internet and connected devices to facilitate everywhere, all-the-time learning. Data clearly show the lack of these essential technologies impact communities of color and low-income communities to a disproportionate extent. As schools recover from the pandemic, several federal agencies and the Office of Educational Technology (OET) are stepping up to provide resources to close the digital divide.
For Learners and Families: getinternet.gov
The FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) allows qualifying 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 sign up for ACP and find participating providers in their area. Several companies additionally committed to offer ACP-eligible families at least one high-speed plan for $30/month or less, with no additional fees and no data caps. This mean that if households apply their ACP benefit to one of these plans, they would have no out-of-pocket cost for internet.
For Schools and Districts: tech.ed.gov/ACP
To help schools and districts as they assist with ACP sign-ups, OET collaborated with the FCC and USDA to update the OET website with FAQs and resources to facilitate communication with families about their ACP eligibility. This includes a template letter to let families know their child receives free or reduced-price school meals and therefore meets the ACP’s eligibility criteria. OET also provides a sample form that can be used to obtain families’ consent 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 funding opportunities from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law aimed at connecting all Americans to high-speed internet, making internet access more affordable, and ensuring all students have access to technology-enabled learning opportunities. As state and local leaders develop plans to implement these funds, education stakeholders can be involved to ensure that investments will equitably address challenges faced by learners, families, and communities.
Educators are increasingly leveraging active and innovative learning opportunities made possible through technology. Schools are also accelerating the implementation of whole learner approaches with technology, including connections to social-emotional supports, parent-educator engagement opportunities, tele-health and tele-mental health, and basic needs services. The resources above can help ensure these opportunities become equitably and sustainably available to all learners, families, and communities.