More Awareness Needed for Broadband Assistance Programs

Broadband education
(Image credit: MoMo Productions via Getty Images)

While efforts are being made to bridge the “broadband divide” in education, more work is needed to make educators aware of government programs and help get families signed up, according to a new study from Discovery Education and Comcast.

The study, released in time for Digital Inclusion Week, found that 82% of families and 80% of educators surveyed felt strongly that having high-speed internet at home is extremely important to learning outcomes.

But while about two-thirds of families and educators think closing the digital divide is important, only one-third were plugged into measures by school districts to help families who need access to broadband.

Specifically, 39% of parents were aware of the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides qualified households to receive discounts on broadband fees and computer gear. Of those aware, only 13% of parents signed up. The study design prevented confirmation of participating families’ ACP eligibility, the companies said. But 49% of families surveyed said they would be interested in signing up with more information. 

Only 22% of educators agreed that their school districts are equipped with the necessary information about the program to help parents gain broadband access.

The reports also found a divergence between how educators and parents thought about the cost of broadband. To parents, the cost was a huge deal, but educators thought living in unwired buildings, not knowing how to set up the internet and a lack of devices were bigger barriers.

“Ensuring every student in America has access to reliable, high-speed Internet in the classroom and at home is a top priority for Comcast’s Project Up,” Broderick Johnson, executive VP of public policy and EVP of digital equity for Comcast, said. “The combination of historic investments in universal broadband, public-private collaboration, and private industry support will together ensure that neither availability nor affordability stands in the way of achieving connectivity for everyone.”

Comcast is providing educators with a new tool to help them determine ACP eligibility in their school districts.

“At Discovery Education, we are on a mission to prepare learners for tomorrow by creating innovative classrooms connected to today’s world,” Discovery Education executive VP of social impact Amy Nakamoto said. “Today, no matter where learning takes place, access to and adoption of high-speed Internet is an essential ingredient for student success. As Comcast's education partner in this work, we’re proud to support efforts to ensure students and families have the tools necessary to meet the demands of the modern learning environment.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.