Broadband can help communities far and wide through education

Broadband is one of America’s great success stories.  And Internet service providers are doing much of the story telling through the unprecedented levels of competition, innovation, investment, and growth that these companies are fueling for our economy at both the national and global level.  These gains are translating into greater economic opportunity for all Americans, Floridians, and more interestingly, an entirely new way of living.

The telecom and cable sectors continue to transform our country’s communications landscape.  Currently, 94 percent of the U.S. population has access to a broadband provider, and although speeds have increased more than 19-fold in the past six years, prices in the U.S. have remained flat.  In fact, U.S. consumers have the second lowest entry level broadband prices in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

These are all good things that clearly indicate we are moving in the right direction and that broadband is fundamentally changing American society in positive ways.  However, there is still room for growth and improvement.  

ADVERTISEMENT
Education is a prime example of this.  Broadband has the ability to transform how education is delivered, particularly for low-income, underserved, and minority students.  Despite the narrowing of some long-standing educational attainment gaps in recent years, the widest education achievement gaps are still found amongst these students.  This needs to change. 

Broadband technology is helping to improve educational standards and outcomes by bringing free and easily accessible resources to classrooms, thus providing students with the 21st century tools they need to excel academically.

However, as mobile broadband adoption continues on its upward curve, home broadband connections continue to lag, particularly among minority households.  According to a recent report by the Pew Internet and American Life Projectonly 53 percent of Latino and 64 percent of African American adults ages 18 and older have a home broadband connection, compared to 74 percent of Whites (non-Hispanics).  Home broadband adoption rates are still not where we need them to be.

An increase in the use of technology in schools, however, is helping to close this broadband adoption gap as families see a value in subscribing to home Internet service.  School curriculums are changing and now utilizing broadband technology in instruction and homework.  Parents are now realizing the benefit that home broadband connections provide for their children and what this means for their future. 

Cable industry leaders in particular are working to provide low-income and underserved families with home broadband connections.  Programs such as Connect2Compete and Internet Essentials are providing low-income families with low-cost, home broadband connections, digital literacy training courses, and an opportunity to purchase computers and other equipment at reduced rates.

It is industry-led programs like these that are so vital in our ongoing efforts to close the digital divide and level the playing field for underserved and minority communities.

Continued deployment of broadband means greater economic opportunity for all by way of job creation, small business development, economic growth opportunities, and global competitiveness. Increased use of broadband technology in schools means greater market opportunities for companies that work in the broadband, tech, and education sectors. All of this translates into a stronger economy for all Americans.

In Florida, I have witnessed firsthand how the broadband industry has given new life to so many communities by improving public spaces, schools, libraries, and hospitals.  Just to note one prime example, Miami-Dade County’s iPrep Academy is a first-of-its-kind school dedicated to providing students with greater broadband capacity and access to online tools and equipment with the purpose of preparing students for America’s digital jobs of the future.

These broadband success stories should make you feel good and make you want more. These are the stories that foster optimism for our future, and the cable and telecom sectors have played an integral role in every one of these stories.  I am certain we all want to see these kinds of successes replicated, especially in our minority communities. By supporting the broadband industry and its efforts to continue meeting the needs of America’s fast-growing and diverse consumer base, our policymakers and regulators will positively impact the educational outlook for millions of Americans and therefore advance America’s competitive position in the global market.  Now that’s a broadband story we would all love to tell!  

Weinberg serves as commissioner for the City of Aventura in Miami-Dade County, Florida.  She also serves as Vice President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and on the FIU Vice Provost Executive Council.