In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, students and workers alike are staying home and doing what they can remotely. But in America, many regions don’t have affordable or high quality broadband service, if they have it at all.
The result is that many are finding themselves cut off at a time when access to new information about the coronavirus is crucial, CNET reports. The problem is bringing to light critical societal inequalities that could have a serious impact on kids’ access to an education.
There could be more than 163 million Americans who don’t have access to broadband service, CNET reports. The problem most clearly hits rural areas, where about 27 percent of Americans don’t have any broadband networks available to them, regardless of cost.
But even in New York City, service is too expensive for 1.5 million residents who are going without.
In all, the coronavirus outbreak is revealing “hard truths about the scope of the digital divide,” said FCC Commissioner Jessica Ronsenworcel, per CNET.
The government estimates that some 12 million schoolchildren fall into a “homework gap,” where limited internet access prevents them from doing their assignments. With more schools going online, that means they can’t access their schoolwork at all.
“We already know millions of students fall into this homework gap,” Rosenworcel said in an interview last week, according to CNET. “And the FCC can be doing more to ensure those who are the greatest risk of being left behind can get online, too.”
READ MORE: COVID-19 shines light on ‘digital divide’ across the US [CNET]
More on the digital divide: Canada to Spend $750 Million to Ensure All Citizens Have Internet Access