How do we Ensure Safe Student Connectivity at Home?

Dan Lourie

The problem of student connectivity at home

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the inequity of internet access across the U.S. and the toll this is taking on our most vulnerable communities. It shouldn’t take a global pandemic to expose the fact that millions of low-income and at-risk children don’t have internet connectivity at home.

When the ‘Stay-at-Home’ orders were issued by State Governors in March, school districts responded as quickly as they could, but many were left scrambling. As a result, students in lower income families faced an extreme disadvantage, limited by their lack of access to a computer or broadband connection. For others, who have a connection and device at home, they may still face issues of connectivity, where the technology is unable to support an entire household’s internet usage. It is not an acceptable compromise to prioritize work vs. education needs – both are essential.

The digital gap

A survey conducted by Pew Research found that 15% of U.S. households with school-age children do not have a high-speed internet connection at home. The report noted the broadband gap was most prevalent in low income communities where “one-third (35%) of households with children ages 6 to 17 and an annual income below $30,000 a year do not have a high-speed internet connection at home, compared with just 6% of such households earning $75,000 or more a year”.

While many assumptions have been made that these are problems isolated to rural or underdeveloped towns, it is important to keep in mind that the challenges of connectivity are felt everywhere. For example, in many mid-sized cities the infrastructure is struggling to keep up with population growth.

Responding to the challenge

In response, Asavie and our partner AT&T are working together to ensure students have access to online learning materials and resources; through safe and robust internet connections. AT&T’s Mo Katibeh was interviewed recently about data as the key to learning.

AT&T is committed to finding innovative ways to support educational institutions during this public health crisis. Combining AT&T and Asavie’s technologies ensures that K-12 students are connected and protected while studying remotely.

Mo Katibeh, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer, AT&T Business

Not every family may be able to access these services or afford premium broadband speeds and better equipment. In these cases, there are also best practices to help support a quality connection:

  • Prioritize websites and applications with the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliant filtering
  • Tamper-proof and network level security without the need of a proxy or VPN
  • School IT Administrators need to be able to simply ensure these connections are safe, without deep technical knowledge.
  • Must work on any SIM enabled Device, especially lower cost android devices.
  • Control bandwidth speeds and minimize mobile data plan usage to ensure connection is for school use and protect stretched school budgets.
  • Ensure applications and websites are not running in the background by eliminating idle browsing sessions

“Education, like food is a basic right. We, at Asavie, are delighted to play our part in delivering this safely.”

Ralph Shaw, CEO and co-founder of Asavie.

As we look to a future of continued online learning, we need to connect communities and ensure students and families overcome the digital divide and homework gap to succeed in this ‘new normal’. Student safety can’t be compromised whilst doing so, as safe distant learning means safe internet!

Learn more about how Asavie helps K-12 schools create a safe distance learning experience for teachers and students.