This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The Federal Communications Commission passed a landmark resolution last week making low-income families eligible for a new federal subsidy for high-speed internet access.
One of the commissioners visited a Philadelphia public school Monday to emphasize the need for such a measure in an era of digital learning.
According to the Pew Research Center, about seven in 10 teachers across the country assign homework that requires access to the internet, but more than 17 percent of families with school-aged children lack access to broadband in their homes.
"That problem, where those numbers overlap, is what I call the ‘homework gap,’" said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel before an audience of students and educators at String Theory Charter’s dazzling Center City campus.
Rosenworcel has been a leading advocate in pushing the federal government to help ease this digital divide — which especially affects low-income, Black, and Hispanic families.
"If you want a fair shot at a 21st-century success, you’re going to need to know how to use digital resources. You’re going to need to be able to use them at home and at school," she said.
For families in need, $9.25 makes big difference
At String Theory, every student receives an iPad that they can use 24-7, but some are among the 17 percent who lack internet access at home.
"It really hurt my grades and my learning, actually," said junior Amrose Dorvil, who has gone without a home broadband connection for most of her life.